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Sunday, September 14, 2014

When Joy Fades


"I'm trading it in, for the joy of the Lord!"
Without going into a whole discussion around something I'm sure you have all heard more than one time, I'm not proposing that Joy is equal to silliness, happiness, or being goofy. Joy is something much deeper, eternal, and lasting. Happiness may grow at times from joy, but joy is not circumstantial. Joy is a something so profound that words rarely can do it justice, and I would also guess that many of you have experience this but possibly struggle to remain in it. Joy remains in trials, fires, and loneliness. Joy remains when our situation is no longer happy, laughable, or silly. Joy also remains when our life is going well, our relationships are going well, and our job is going well. Why? Again, it's not circumstantial ... because it should rest in a beautiful Truth from Someone that never changes; Christ Jesus.

However, as a follower of Christ, we also should be well aware when we feel that joyful rest waning. As I still am surfacing from what I would describe as a desert time, I am sensitive to this struggle. I learned a great deal, and I can tell that this afternoon was a time when I begin to leave His restful arms and begin to try and take control myself; a task that I will never be able to accomplish.

I have a lot on my plate that He is carrying, and when I step away and try to take hold of the plate myself I am absolutely crushed! Yet just like a child learning to walk, when I start to stumble, I feel His Hands right at my side catching me again; and I hand Him my plate back. (why do I think I could ever accomplish what He can?)

So while I may not have to always be silly (like my goofy son in the picture above!), while there may be times to handle serious matters, while happiness may come and go, I should always be able to rest in the Joy He provides.
Seriousness is not a fruit of the Spirit, but joy is. - Gareth Gilkeson
These words are challenging to me. There are plenty of times I'm quiet, serious, and reflective simply because I'm just quiet! However, there are also times I think I am too serious (at work, home, and about) when I'm missing the joy of this life He provides.

I struggle with this; but I will also let Him work with me on this too.

When Joy Fades? Recenter in Christ, and you will find it again.

~Matthew

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Kings: A Journey Through Samuel


1 Samuel 8
"[Give us a king so that] we also may be like all the nations, and that our king may judge us and go out before us and fight our battles." 1 Samuel 8:20 (ESV, Emphasis Added)
I often come back to this chapter. A people rejecting God and turning to the State for help and salvation is both a theme now as it was then. The cry, the warning, and the allowance to stumble causes me to see an immaturity in society that has never seemed to wane. However, going back to this passage, as much as they wanted a king, they simply didn't trust God anymore.

... or perhaps they let their problems get bigger than God.

  • Identity: What do we look like to all the other nations?
  • Authority: Who is going to lead and judge us Spiritually when Samuel is gone?
  • Leadership: Who will be our leader? We need someone to follow.
  • Protection: Are we going to get attacked again? Who will lead our army?
I don't really think things have changed all that much.
  • Identity: Am I going to look odd or offend someone else by being a Christian?
  • Authority: What is going to happen if he/she gets elected and our candidate does not?
  • Leadership: I didn't really like that sermon. I didn't like the band today. I don't think my pastor is as dynamic as that one I listen to on my podcast. What church should I go to now?
  • Protection: When will the next terrorist attack happen? Am I safe in this country?
These questions of identity, authority, leadership, and protection are all provided by God should we trust in Him. We need to learn to embrace our identity, and trust in His authority, leadership, and protection. Storms will come, and the waves will pound on the doors and perhaps break a few windows, but He is bigger than any storm, and better yet, He alone can calm it.

Are some things frightening? Yes. Are some things challenging to make a stand? Yes.

However this world will not overcome us, because we are His, and He overcame this world.

Stand Strong,
~Matt

Friday, August 29, 2014

U Turns: A Journey Through Samuel


1 Samuel 7

And Samuel said to all the house of Israel, “If you are returning to the LORD with all your heart, then put away the foreign gods and the Ashtaroth from among you and direct your heart to the LORD and serve him only, and he will deliver you out of the hand of the Philistines.” So the people of Israel put away the Baals and the Ashtaroth, and they served the LORD only. (1 Samuel 7:3-4 ESV)

If you say you are going to return to the Lord, then ...
  • Put away [what you worship more than Him]
  • Direct your heart to Him
  • Serve Him
                                        ... then you will be delivered.
When I read this passage it reminded me clearly of the hope and expectation He has for us. This is not a vending machine make-deals with God. This is not a health, wealth, and prosperity gospel. This is a simple relationship reality check. Do you love me? Then obey me; and if you obey me, it shows that you love me. (John 14:21-24)

One who has a heart towards God obeys out of love. Even if one may not feel like obeying, they should do so fully submitting to God in His infinite wisdom and mercy. If in your heart you are submitting to God because "you don't want to get punished" I think your heart is in the wrong place. Not that you are failing and undeserving (I feel the same way at times) but it is a good opportunity to realign yourself and not think about just consequences, but rethink who you are to Him.

You alone are valuable enough for Jesus, the son of God, to die on a cross. Even if you were the only soul that was saved, you were worth it. You are worth the birth, life, teaching, torture, death, and resurrection of God. You.

Humbling is it not?

So how do we respond to such a reality? Take a u-turn on sin. Leave those 'things' behind ... give your heart to Christ ... and serve Him.

You may be far from God, on the fence, newly enlisted in His army, or a long-time veteran. In any case, I am sure that there is a u-turn somewhere we all need to take ... something in our life ... maybe even right now at this moment. Think. See it?

Take it ...

His,
~Matt

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