Friday, September 4, 2015

Frozen Peas and Spiritual Growth


So last night I came home from band/worship practice with a piercing headache; rather more of a migraine. As I lay on my bed with a frozen bag of peas on my head ... yes peas ... ok hold on ...
Let me stop for a moment as I endorse something. Last time I had a headache I was laying on my bed and asked my wife for an ice pack. She brought over not an ice pack, but a frozen bag of peas. Really? Frozen peas? Is this the 1950's? Perhaps steak next time? Well, apparently our ice packs were in the outside fridge, which for the record keeps things at a nice consistent room temperature; yeah, it's working great. Anyway, in lieu of using a tepid sack of nothingness on my head from the outside fridge/freezer, I was thankful to have something. And you know what? Wow do they rock! Cold, long lasting, and completely flexible and conforming to your head ... super! I'm buying more ... I get my ice packs from Trader Joe's.
So back to my story, yes, a frozen bag of petite peas from Trader Joe's was placed on my head and it was quite lovely.

A while later, it started to go away, so thankful! And as it was dispersing I was overcome with the amazing feeling of relief. Even though nothing physically changed in my life, I actually felt better than before my headache even started! Ever experience that? Stomach aches are the same for me too ... they are horrible ... but once I get the feeling that it's gone, and the pain goes away, the amazing sense of relief comes over me and I feel emotionally fantastic!

What a great feeling!

As the peas were tossed to the floor (in the bag still, don't worry) I shared this with my wife and we related it to Spiritual Growth. The pain, suffering, challenges, and discomfort that life can bring, if channeled through Him, will leave us with this amazing sense of appreciation, thankfulness, and matured faith. As a human, we can psychologically be thankful for lessons learned through challenges and manage them better next time (one worldview). Or, with a Christian worldview, we can have the same benefits in addition to drawing closer to God in a very real way. We don't just have the confidence and fortitude to fight the battle better next time, we know Who really fights for us, and can rest in Him no matter where life leads. We may not be able to expect how life will be, but we know what to expect from Him. There is a reality out there that is waiting for all of us to discover that you have to believe first in order to see.

The sense of relief that comes from a passing headache pales in comparison to the relief that comes from His Truth. I pray you come to know Him.

However, the challenge is, you can't "Give God a shot." thinking all along that this faith thing is weird but wait for something magical to happen - that's not how He works. You give Him your life, and you have a new one in return. Why bother? All I can say is that it's worth the sacrifice - and as I stumble along with my own foolishness and sins, I still can say that I desire Him to be the center of everything in my life. He constantly guides me, corrects me when I'm being stupid, and loves on me each step of the way. Before He returns, or before you close your eyes for the last time on this earth, I pray you make the right choice on the most important decision in your life.
"The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned." 1 Corinthians 2:14
I know this sounds foolish to many; as it did to me at one time. After all, if God was real, wouldn't He just show up, prove Himself, say who He was, throw around some powers/miracles to amaze people, and at least tell people the truth to end all this confusion?

     He did - that was Jesus

His,
~Matt


Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Before Moving On


There have been times I've walked away from a situation, individual, or group thinking to myself: If they don't want to accept this, so be it, it's on them.

In fact, if this act of moving away is due to my faith being ridiculed, not received, or bitterly rejected, I often can cite biblical examples of how God's messengers moved on from a place that did not welcome them. Sometimes it is simply out of comfort to avoid conflict, sometimes it's more personal from family and friends that think me idiotic for my beliefs, and sometimes it is because I am all but pushed away physically.

However I think there is a passage from Acts 18 that paints a complete picture of this scenario that is worth reflecting on.

... and he reasoned in the synagogue every Sabbath, and tried to persuade Jews and Greeks. When Silas and Timothy arrived from Macedonia, Paul was occupied with the word, testifying to the Jews that the Christ was Jesus. And when they opposed and reviled him, he shook out his garments and said to them, “Your blood be on your own heads! I am innocent.” ...
(Acts 18:4-6a ESV)

Before Paul disconnected himself from them after they opposed and reviled him, he did three very important things

  1. He reasoned with them
  2. He tried to persuade them
  3. He testified to them
I know there are times I have tried to reason with someone in discussion about my faith, sometimes attempted to persuade them, and even (more importantly I think) testify to them not only that Jesus was the Christ, but a personal testimony as well.

Yet, I sadly can recall more times that I simply didn't even want to get into it for fear of an argument, more frustration, or trying to avoid deeper earthly wounds (ignoring the eternal impact). Sometimes I even hesitated to share my faith on a deeper level with those really close to me, or at work, because I feel my own life doesn't honor Christ like I think it should. After all, those closest to me know my failures all too well. However that is a pernicious lie from the depths of hell that continues to try and convince us that salvation is about deserving and earning, and not about Grace.

So before we shake out our garments and move on, give up, and walk away; are we sure we have done our part? Have we reasoned? Have we attempted to persuade? Have we testified?

Father, grant me the courage to climb above the lies of the enemy onto the solid ground of Your Truth. I confess my lack of faith and my reliance on self when thinking that I am more than I am. Give me the courage and words to use when reasoning, persuading, and testifying to Your Holy Name. Show me discernment for opportunities that you bring me, and do continue to bring them to me, even with as many opportunities that I have let slip by. Thank you for allowing these confessions to fill me with love and not guilt through your Grace poured out on me by your Son Jesus in Who's Name I pray. Amen.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Sow So


I had a novel idea this year when it came to my garden. I decided to plant what I actually wanted to eat! Amazing huh? Well, in previous years I continued to plant things that I found fun to watch grow, but not so fun to eat. Zuchinni, squash, eggplant for example. Lovely veggies, but not on the top of my list personally. I love greens (kale, spinach), peppers (hot and mild) and plenty of herbs to spice up my kitchen.

          After all, you should sow what you want to reap. (see what I did there?)

However, in reading through Proverbs 6 today after reflecting with my wife, I come across this passage (emphasis added by me) ...
There are six things that the LORD hates, seven that are an abomination to him: haughty eyes, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked plans, feet that make haste to run to evil, a false witness who breathes out lies, and one who sows discord among brothers. (Proverbs 6:16-19)
If we take a look at that word discord, among some of the more popular definitions, I found three key words that were common throughout:

   Disagreement
      Lack of Harmony
         Unpleasant in Nature

How would one sow disagreement, lack of harmony, or even just something unpleasant? I can think of no better weapon to cause that type of destruction than our very own words. The tongue continues to be such a deadly weapon against humanity.

"Did God really say?" ... sowing discord from the beginning ...

Additonally, let us not forget two other words mentioned in that passage; hate and abomination. This is not an issue our Lord takes lightly. The church is a place for us to grow in Christ, not in the flesh. Christ at the head, but still with imperfect human leadership. We need to remember that just because we disagree with something, does not mean we are right. We need to come together to seek His Word through our differences, not the desires of our flesh. Pride will be a forever present enemy of our own self, and the church.
... and one who sows discord among brothers.
We all have a group of friends we are more comfortable with, we connect with, and God has led us to. We need to be the ones that as soon as we see discord rear its ugly head in our own sphere of influence, we snuff it out.

With what though?

          Love.

Meditate on that word for a moment ... right now ...

     Love.

Perhaps when we think about it at home, in our church group, or even with our workplace relationships and beyond, we can ask ourself one simple question during a discussion:

Is love present?

Do I sense discord, or love?
Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins. (1 Peter 4:8 ESV)
God so loved, so we love.

His,
Matthew
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