Heartache, Failure, and Disappointments by Pastor Matthew Swiatkowski

Today’s Passage – Jeremiah 49 – 50 (Click on the references to listen to the audio – click here to view the text from the Blue Letter Bible website)

Read a previous post from today’s passage – “A Word to the Shepherds.”

(Second Milers also read – Romans 13 – 16Psalms 126 – 130Proverbs 27)

Read the “0827 Evening and Morning” devotion for today, by the late Charles Haddon Spurgeon.

This article was originally published in the Gospel Light Baptist Church Newsletter (08/19/2023).

For this story, we will refer to the young man as Paul. And at this point in his high school years, he is deeply in love with a girl we will call Linda. To everybody who could see from the outside, they made a perfect couple. He was a good-looking young man with a great sense of humor, a slim, muscular physique, and instead of attending a regular high school, he opted to enroll in a technical school. This decision allowed him to receive an education and gain a trade that he could utilize after graduation. She was a pretty girl with brown hair parted in the middle, feathered in the style of the day, and pretty, blue eyes. This much I can say is true–that Paul loved her with all his heart. His brothers knew how he felt about her, and they were glad that he was happy and maybe even a little jealous.

Everyone has a best friend, and his closest friend, whom we will call Tom, was always there to support him, or so it seemed. Tom was a good-looking young man. You might even say he was Hollywood handsome. Tom always seemed to attract a crowd of girls wherever he went. By now, you might guess where this is going, and yes, Tom and Linda began to have a fling behind Paul’s back. One day, Paul’s youngest brother walked in on Linda and Tom as they were embraced in each other’s arms in the clubhouse in the backyard of Paul’s home. Sadly, his youngest brother was too young to understand what was taking place, and maybe that’s a good thing. Knowing his younger brother as I do and his anger issues at the time, if he were older, there would be bloodshed. Eventually, the ugly truth was revealed. To say Paul was hurt would be an understatement; he was devastated. He lost the first girl he truly loved and lost his best friend. This is not the first time this has occurred to someone in history, and it wouldn’t be the last. Five years later, it happened to two friends of mine. I told the one he shouldn’t do that behind his friend’s back. He didn’t listen, and it got ugly. By the way, God gave Ten Commandments, and #9 is not to covet thy neighbor’s wife. The whole idea is not to covet what belongs to someone else.

Back to Paul. Losing the one you love, or a best friend is often difficult, but losing both in this manner can be a challenging hurdle to overcome. It would take Paul a long time to restore his emotions. To complicate matters, his father was of no support. His dad was the type of man who would constantly criticize and put you down. Paul’s confidence was shattered on every level, as infidelity often destroys a person’s self-worth and self-value. If nobody is there trying to help you put the pieces back together, the healing process will be very long. 

Fast forward 30 years, Paul and I talked, and he told me how he had come across Linda one day. He said they had a pleasant conversation. I stood there listening as he spoke. He said, “Well, I’m finally over her”. Puzzled and with a halfway smile, I asked why. He said, “Well, I’ve met her many times since we broke up, and this is the first time my heart didn’t hurt.” That first cut goes deep and often takes a long time to heal. 

Many people have suffered heartache from others. Infidelity, divorce, and constantly being put down or ignored affect an individual’s self-worth. The sad reality is that when one suffers this type of pain, it usually leads to a misstep that causes another heartache. 

The question often asked is how you overcome painful hurts and bad episodes in your life. The answer is, dealing with our pain with scripture. The above story with Paul. Linda and Tom have been played out untold times in the course of history. Books, poems, songs, and movies have told its ugly story. When I think of it from time to time, I am reminded that everyone involved lost something and nobody gained a thing. The fling between Tom and Linda did not last long. Remember for everything you win there is something lost. 

Any counseling that does not involve God and His Word is useless. Dealing with emotional pain and mental anguish with medication will never bring healing, never. 

I have several historical events in the gospels that I love and never grow tired of reading and studying. 

The first is the woman at the well (John 4:1-42). The second we will discuss next week.

The woman at the well presents us with a worst-case scenario—a very immoral individual. In the story of the demoniac, we have another worst-case scenario, it’s bad on every level, with Peter denying the Lord another worst-case scenario and Saul of Tarsus the same thing. God tells us these stories to remind us he is in the saving business. The next time you think you are too rotten for help, remember your bible.

In our story above, it would be effortless to say that if Paul had been in church and serving the Lord, he would not have had this heartache and emotional damage. That’s a cheap answer, and when we study the life of our Saviour, it’s something He never said to anybody.

Imagine Him meeting with the woman at the well, and He said something like this: “You know, if you had just followed what I said in the Bible, you wouldn’t have those five loser husbands, and you wouldn’t be shacking up with this individual right now!” The conversation would have gone nowhere, and there would have been no conversion and no city coming to faith. Telling someone they should not have done it after the heartache is idiotic. So, how did the Master deal with this woman?

First, He treated her like a human. The day’s culture was to think of her as inferior because of her gender; She was also of mixed race, which was another strike. She had five failed marriages and no doubt lived in an immoral way between marriages. Christ came to her knowing all this, yet He still talked with her and was there to help her.

Second, He brought up her relationships, but He didn’t dwell on them and beat her up. The point of it was to expose her need and to reveal Himself. If you miss that last one, you miss the whole story.

Third, the conversation turns spiritual from here, and the Master tells her He is the Messiah. This, of course, leads to her salvation.

Human nature never changes; how people feel now is how they felt 2000 years ago. This dear lady was lonely and hurt by all the wrong choices and pain others inflicted upon her. There is no doubt that she had been hurt by someone in her life, and she, in turn, probably hurt others. There is something inherent in our sinful nature that when we are emotionally damaged by someone, we seek to hurt them back. In the case of adultery, too often, the victim will go out and commit the same sin to get back at the one they love. Sadly, too often, people will afflict themselves and often blame themselves for why the one they love did what they did. 

Nowhere in this does the Saviour tell her, you need to move on, you need to go forward, you have great worth, you are awesome. He does something better. He saves her soul, and that will lead to a changed life. She did have worth, and it was in her changed life. She had to choose where she wanted to live: in the past, where all her defeats and pains were, or to walk in the newness of life and the value Christ had placed upon her; thus, she could look at herself in her mirror or see herself through the lens of scripture, where she is a justified, blood-bought child of God.

“Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ: By whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God.” (Romans 5:1-2)

I do not doubt that this lady told her live-in boyfriend about Christ, and if he did not believe, he was looking for a new place to stay that night.

The Apostle Paul, who was once Saul of Tarsus, the killer of Christians, wrote through the Holy Spirit this way:

Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect: but I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus. Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus. Let us therefore, as many as be perfect, be thus minded: and if in any thing ye be otherwise minded, God shall reveal even this unto you. (Philippians 3:12-15)

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A Letter to a Teenager by Pastor Matthew Swiatkowski

Today’s Passage – Proverbs 25 – 27 (Click on the references to listen to the audio – click here to view the text from the Blue Letter Bible website)

(Second Milers also read – Luke 1 – 2Psalms 111 – 115Proverbs 23)

Read the “0723 Evening and Morning” devotion for today, by the late Charles Haddon Spurgeon.

Read a previous post from this passage – “A True Friend”

Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.” Proverbs 3:5-6

Recently, I received a letter from a dear couple whom I have known since before their wedding. This letter contained a unique request that I had not received before. They asked me to write an encouraging letter to their oldest child who is soon turning 13 years old, as he is entering his teenage years. As I sat in front of my computer, staring at a blank page, I asked the Lord for guidance on what to write. He laid it on my heart to write something that I would have needed at 13, as these principles would work for both boys and girls. After I sent off the letter, I began to reflect on what I wrote. I had several more thoughts cross my mind so I added them here. Those extra thoughts will be in italics. 

Dear ___________

I want to extend my warmest wishes to you on your 13th birthday. You’ve officially entered your teenage years, and I’m sure you’ve been eagerly anticipating this milestone. Remember, your teenage years are what you make of them. Make the most of it and enjoy this exciting new chapter in your life. I sincerely urge you to cherish and embrace your teenage years rather than rush to reach your 20s. Life is a precious blessing bestowed upon us by our Heavenly Father, and every phase of it has its unique charm. As we move on to a new chapter, we leave behind some experiences that can never be relived. Therefore, I encourage you to make the most of your teenage years and treasure every moment, for they will never come again. 

I have vivid memories of my teenage years, but unfortunately, most of them were spent serving the world instead of my Lord. I want you to know how fortunate you are to have been blessed with two wonderful Christian parents. However, I understand that your youth may present challenges, so I want to offer some words of encouragement. 

First, It’s important to cherish the time you spend with your family, whether it’s sharing meals, enjoying family time, or going on vacations together. If you and your brothers are sharing a room, know that as you grow older, you’ll look back with fondness on the memories you created together. Even the arguments and disagreements will become a source of laughter and joy in retrospect. I speak from experience, having been the youngest of four brothers. I have countless happy memories of us talking and joking around in our beds at night. Having brothers is a true blessing.

Second, as the eldest in the family, you hold a great responsibility to set a positive example for your younger siblings. Even if you don’t feel like a leader, they will look up to you and follow your actions. It’s important to remember that your words and behavior have a significant impact on them. My brother Edward was the oldest in our family, but he passed away in 1985 and I miss him greatly. He set the tone for us and we followed him because he was our big brother. Embrace this role with wisdom and make choices that are beneficial to all.

Third, As you venture into your teenage years, you will face new challenges and emotions. It may be difficult to fully appreciate now, but having godly parents is a blessing that you will come to understand as you grow older. Seeking counsel from your father and mother is the wisest thing you can do. Drawing from my own experiences, I recall sitting with my mother at the kitchen table for hours, discussing everything from our ancestors to current events. She was a delight to talk to. My relationship with my father was more challenging, as he was not a Christian man. However, both your parents have valuable life experience and a deep understanding of the world. They are aware of its dangers and pitfalls, and they want to help you avoid making the same mistakes they may have made.

Fourth, every young man wants friends and be careful of the ones that you make. Psalm 1 gives some wonderful advice in this department. Avoid any young man or any young lady who will try to take you away from the Lord or obedience to your parents. They are not your friends. Forming friendships with individuals who do not have love for the Lord or a desire to serve him will not be advantageous for you, and will only bring harm.

Fifth, it’s important to prioritize your relationship with God. Seek His guidance through prayer before making any decisions, and make sure everything you do aligns with His teachings. Though it may not be easy, being a Christian is more fulfilling than anything else this world can offer. I’m grateful that God touched my heart at 18 and transformed my life for the better. Those who serve Jesus Christ never regret their life’s journey. Attend church regularly, study the scriptures, heed your pastor’s teachings, and respect your parents in the Lord. Sadly I have seen too many young people ignore this advice and have watched them go off the rails.

Sixth, As you appreciate your current age, it’s crucial to consider the future. Every decision you make will guide you toward a particular destination. Your future is determined by the decisions you make in the present. Bad decisions can lead to negative consequences, while good decisions can bring positive outcomes. Remember to always make wise choices to create a better future for yourself. It is a fundamental truth in the Bible that decisions made without considering the Lord will inevitably lead to unfavorable outcomes.

Seventh, Do not sacrifice the permanent on the altar of the temporary. Some things in life are very precious and they should not be thrown away or treated lightly. Your purity and virtue are gifts and they should not be wasted on a fleeting moment. Follow what God teaches and you will have no regrets.

Dear friend, I hope these seven points of wisdom I shared with you are helpful. As you continue to grow, always remember to appreciate life for what it truly is – a beautiful gift from the almighty God, filled with wonder, excitement, and many blessings. Even though there may be moments of sorrow and heartache, these experiences only serve to help us cherish and appreciate the wonderful things that God in Heaven has provided for us. I will continue to keep you in my prayers.

God Bless 

Matthew B. Swiatkowski Sr.   

Pastor Matthew Swiatkowski is the pastor of Gospel Light Baptist Church in Kearny, NJ

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Mother and Home by Pastor Matthew Swiatkowski

Today’s Reading – 1 Chronicles 23 – 25 (Click on the references to listen to the audio – Click here to view the passage from Blue Letter Bible)

(Second Milers Read – John 19 – 20; Psalms 66 – 70; Proverbs 14)Read the “0514 Evening and Morning” devotion for today, by the late Charles Haddon Spurgeon.

Note – This article was originally published in the Gospel Light Baptist Church Newsletter and was reprinted by permission.

Favour is deceitful, and beauty is vain: but a woman that feareth the LORD, she shall be praised.” (Proverbs 31:30)

“Ma…I’m home.” That’s what I said when I came through the front door and stood there in the hallway. Right in front of me was the staircase leading to the second floor where the three bedrooms were along with the bathroom, and just off to the right was the hallway that would lead me to the kitchen. I stood there for a minute, but my mom did not respond because mom did not live there anymore. My parents sold the house 20 years ago and the couple who purchased it from them were selling it and having an open house. I couldn’t resist going down to the house and looking around. As I stood there in the front entranceway, I was flooded with memories, from the happy to the sad. I walked slowly down the hallway and to the right was a door that would lead to the living room and as I proceeded to the left was the doorway that would take me to the basement. And then right in front of me was the entrance to the kitchen. I made my way into the kitchen, which was large. There was a sink, range top, an oven, and plenty of cabinets and counter space on the left-hand side, and then a large area for a large table to accommodate the eight people who sat around it each evening for a meal. This large room and probably the largest in the house and was the meeting place. Tuesday night was company night; sometimes there would be as few as four and then sometimes there would be 20 people, lots of laughs, plenty of cake, and always coffee. As I stood there, I saw them all and I could hear the conversations and the laughter. Most of all I could see my mom and watch her having a good time. This kitchen provided more meals than any man could remember. Breakfast, lunch, and dinner seven days a week 365 days a year. If ever a friend or guest came by at mealtime nobody was ever denied. As a teenager when I came home (and always at the time mom told me) I would make my way into the kitchen and find Mom sitting there reading. I would pour myself a Coke and grab a snack and sit down and talk with Mom, maybe for just 10 minutes or maybe for a couple of hours. My trip down memory lane was disturbed when the real estate agent tried to point out to me how large the kitchen area was. I looked at him and smiled. Yes, it is a very large kitchen.

I then walked into the living room and could see my dad sitting in his recliner with his one leg always hanging over the side of the arm of the chair, the sofa and loveseat with us sitting there watching a movie TV show or a Giants football game. Then through this door that led back to the hallway I went and made my way upstairs. I looked in the bedrooms and then stood there in the front room that belonged to my three brothers and me. I was already on shaky ground but here’s where I started to lose it. Here are the four of us shared this– room I remember it being much bigger and as I stood there, I tried to figure out how the four of us fit in that place, how long with dressers and a TV stereo system. In the bathroom was the built-in cabinet where Mom stored all the towels and bed sheets. I made my way into the basement and the backyard. The first 25 years of my life were spent in this house. My mother was born in this house and her grandfather purchased it in 1919. For all intents and purposes, this was my mother’s house. Mom and Dad purchased it when her grandfather died. Needless to say, it held a lot of memories. Everything about this house reminded me of Mom, hers was the dominant memory and they were good memories.

The real estate agent and the homeowner followed me as I made my way through the home and neither of them knew who I was or my history. I finally spilled the beans when I was done with my tour. The house and everything about it reminded me of my mother. I could tell you 1001 stories about her and the impact she had on my life. I thank God for her, and I sure do miss her. Dad broke his back to make this house possible and all its contents, but my mother made it home. It was a haven and one of the few places where I could be myself without fear of ridicule and mocking.

For 31 years Renee and I have made this apartment our home. It was the spring and Matty was a year and a half old, and Melanie was due in August. Ethan and Evan would come later but all four know this five-room apartment as home. Here their mother educated them and taught them to read and write. She taught them how to add and subtract. Here they learned the word of God and here they grew up and for three of them, they left for college and then into marriage. While I was out working first in the plumbing and heating business and then in the pastorate, she stayed home and made our house a home. Three meals a day seven days a week, 365 days a year and no guest ever denied a meal even when they stopped by unexpectedly. I thank God for the wife He has given me and the mother she has been to our children. She has loved them unconditionally and she gave them a foundation. I’m indebted to her for all her sacrifice.

The blessings of God often go undetected as the Christian is usually waiting for a large sum of money or the absence of problems. Many an individual is blessed with a good mother and when they are in their youth, they don’t realize what they have. Then as young adulthood hits, they get busy trying to find their place in life. They are still looking for that great blessing from God and overlook the jewel that God has placed right in front of them. Many a husband will break his neck working and struggling and praying for the blessings of God and if he has a good wife who nurtures and cares for their children and if he fails to realize the ruby that God has placed within his home, he is a foolish man. There is no greater joy than to have a peaceful and quiet home. Many a night I would be out working late either on a heating emergency or as a pastor making a visit. I would rush home and Renee would have the kids bathed and, in their pajamas, waiting for me. We would read a Bible story, laugh, pray, and tuck them in. Then with the kids asleep, Renee would break out the Haagen Dazs chocolate ice cream she had hidden in the freezer. We learned not to make popcorn after the kids go to bed. Because as we sat there in the living room eating it the kids usually got up and would poke their heads out of the door wiping their eyes and asking if they could have some popcorn. I could never say no. To me, it was a flashback to when I was a child, when I would be lying in bed, and I could hear the popcorn being made and the smell would drift upstairs. I would get out of bed and lean over the banister and yell downstairs, Ma, can I have some popcorn? She also never said no and like a flash I was down the stairs and running down the hallway sliding across the kitchen floor with my pajamas with the built-in feet and then devouring a few handfuls of popcorn and back up to bed. Anyway, Renee and I would talk and finish whatever we were snacking on.
To whoever has finished reading this article I remind you that if you’re a woman who has been blessed to have children there is no higher calling than to care for them. Every other job is a pay cut and a downgrade. The Creator is the one whose wisdom is far beyond our comprehension, He has designed and made motherhood. He wired you and made you for such a purpose and to despise it or neglect that sacred and holy responsibility is unwise.

To all the single moms who have raised their children due to the loss of their husband or failed marriage or out-of-wedlock pregnancy. I say to you to stay true to God and rest assured he knows where you are and the struggle. I think of how God remembered Hagar in Genesis 21:9-21
To have been blessed with a good mother is a gift from almighty God even if mom was not so good (and there are mothers out there who had no business having children if I can say that). Maybe you’ve been blessed with a wife who is a good mother. There is where you should be thanking God for the blessing, He gave you. If you have been blessed to have both mom and wife, you have riches you do not understand.

Scripture reminds us:

“Lo, children are an heritage of the LORD: and the fruit of the womb is his reward.” Psalm 127:3

There is no greater responsibility, no greater goal, no greater joy for a woman than the care of her children. Every other career choice is a downgrade a step away from what a holy and wise God gave you.

“She looketh well to the ways of her household, and eateth not the bread of idleness. Her children arise up, and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praiseth her. Many daughters have done virtuously, but thou excellest them all. Favour is deceitful, and beauty is vain: but a woman that feareth the LORD, she shall be praised.” (Proverbs 31:27 – 30)

“Every wise woman buildeth her house: but the foolish plucketh it down with her hands.” (Proverbs 14:1)

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How Blessed Do You Need to Be to Forget God… by Pastor Matt Swiatkowski

Today’s Passage – Deuteronomy 6 – 8 (Click on the references to listen to the audio – Click here to view the passage from Blue Letter Bible)

(Second Milers also read –  2 Corinthians 1 – 4Proverbs 3Psalms 11 – 15)

Listen to this morning’s Scripture song – Psalm 119:105

Read the “0303 Evening and Morning” devotion for today, by the late Charles Haddon Spurgeon.

Read a previous post from today’s passage – Remember Who Butters Your Bread,” and “Let’s Get Back to the Bible.”

“And it shall be, when the LORD thy God shall have brought thee into the land which he sware unto thy fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give thee great and goodly cities, which thou buildedst not,   And houses full of all good things, which thou filledst not, and wells digged, which thou diggedst not, vineyards and olive trees, which thou plantedst not; when thou shalt have eaten and be full;  Then beware lest thou forget the LORD, which brought thee forth out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage.”

The LORD God gave the children of Israel a land they did not build, and he gave the warning to be careful not to forget him. How is that even possible? Yet it happened because they did forget him and served the gods of the people they just conquered. The book of Judges records just how rotten the people had become. The description of their sins is appalling, and you wonder how they could forget God and commit such terrible sins. Yet we don’t have to go back in time 3500 years ago; we just have to look at the last 75 years. The generation that fought WWII can not be mentioned enough. My dad was the oldest child and quit school in sixth grade to support the family because his dad was a drunk. He knew what it was like to go hungry and wear ragged clothes. He knew the threat of eviction and to have next to no possessions of his own. He then went off to war and sent most of his money back to mom so she could care for the children at home. After the war he married mom, bought a house and worked tirelessly to provide for his wife and six children. We never missed a meal and always had clothes to wear. My dad is typical of that generation; they went without and most of their children did not.

Today we live in a land blessed beyond measure and but are we a grateful nation? Do we find ourselves on our knees thanking God for all his blessings while we enjoy all the stuff we have? The answer is clear; it’s no. We have become ungrateful, we look at what we don’t have and are angry when the neighbor is blessed more than us. Is the church house full during mid-week service? No, because the stuff we are blessed with keeps us from God. The mid-week prayer service was born out of need for revival as people realized they needed God. Today who needs God when we are enjoying the fruit of others labor. How many pray for work only to let that job keep them from serving the Lord? How many prayed for a spouse and for children only to have them keep them from God? How many times has a loved one been sick, and you prayed, and God heard. Did you show God gratitude with service to him? Did you open your wallet and sacrifice in giving because you understood it was God who gave you that money in the first place? 

I think the answer is clear to all these questions. While there is always the remnant that are thankful, the vast majority go on with all their blessings, only to gripe and complain about what they don’t have. We will miss church and fail to serve in church because our stuff prevents us from doing so. The nation of Israel would go off into bondage in the book of Judges and I fear about the future of our nation and wonder what fate awaits a people who have had more than any other generation in history. I trust this is not true of you my friend, but that instead you live with a heart filled with gratitude towards God and are truly thankful for all he has done for you.

The Swiatkowski Family

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