Monday, December 20, 2010

Missing an Opportunity of Temple Proportions


Sometimes the most simple words are the most powerful aren't they? These Pharisees and Sadducees who tried to uphold the Law by using any method but love, worship their temple practices with extraordinary religion. Then comes a Man, speaking of Himself, and says:
I tell you, something greater than the temple is here. (Matthew 12:6 ESV)
Without tangenting too much, I know that while structure and order was indeed enforced in the OT, we still need to know what mercy, not sacrifice means as well in the OT (Hosea 6:6). However these church leaders were so blinded by their own selves, that they missed the greatest opportunity of their lives.

And that, is what I get from this verse. I don't want to miss a calling from Christ because I'm so wrapped up in my view of how things are, or what I think they should be. I don't want my temple in my life taking priority and making me miss a calling for something that is far greater. I feel Him calling me to greater things, and I don't want my tunnel vision to become so focused, even if I think I'm doing it for Christ, that I miss His next step He wants me to take.
Father, you know what is best for me. Continue to grant me the courage and strength I need to loosen my grip and control on my own agenda. I need to learn to trust You more than I trust myself. I need to learn to trust Your judgment, more than my natural reactions. Simply, I need you. Break me, mold me, fix me ... daily.
Something greater than the temple came indeed ...
~Matthew

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Climbing That Mountain

Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. (Matthew 10:39 ESV)

As we approach the celebration of Christmas, it also means we are approaching the closing of another year. Though it is purely symbolic, certainly not something I treat legalistically, it's a good opportunity for me to take inventory, reflect on my growth, and stare at that mountain in front of me with confidence.

According to society I'm doing pretty well. I have a great job, get paid far more than I deserve, 2 degrees under my belt, have a happy and healthy family, surrounded by close friends, and have plenty of worldly "stuff" that I have accumulated through the years. However, if I were to measure my life based on these things, I suppose my goals would be to simply get more money, and more stuff, and hope that I can find the time to use that stuff.

Yet it never satisfies does it? That raise I got all too quickly changed from being a bonus, to what I need to balance the budget. That cool stuff I got most definitely lost the edge and flame of excitement. That awesome purchase just turned into more of my 'stuff'.

That's why I love His plan so much better. He calls us to be Holy, like Him. He knows we will never achieve that, but it's our journey and calling nonetheless. I don't look at this mountain of holiness as an insurmountable obstacle of frustration, I see opportunity, amazing opportunity. His "Stuff" we purchase through sacrifice continues to fill me.

He gives everything purpose; He fills every void; He gives life and joy beyond anything this world can give.

So I encourage you to take inventory in the next week or two along with me. Create some goals, that's what I'm going to be doing. Symbolic as it is, it's a wonderful opportunity to make a New Year's resolution for Him, which I guarantee will bless you more than you can imagine. I'm going to be looking to a familiar passage regarding the fruit of the Spirit, and praying about and finding opportunities to increase my fruit:

"But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law." (Galatians 5:22-23 ESV)
Pick a fruit, find your opportunity, and get climbing ... see you on His mountain!

~Matthew

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Heading to Deeper Waters

“And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words.” (Matthew 6:7 ESV)


When I read the passage above it reminded me of how all too often I come to my eternal Father in prayer, and halfway through our dialog I can’t even remember what I’m talking to Him about. Being routine in prayer for the sake of making it a habit of conversing is wonderful, but being routine in the words we use is empty and shallow.

At times it is because I am struggling with trials in my life and I apparently think that I can manage them better than coming to Him. At times it is because I’m frustrated with individuals in my life or myself. Also there are times when it’s simply because I’m tired. Whatever the reason, He is not asking for us to check a box, but for us to share our heart. Yes He knows what we ask before we say it, but we need to talk to Him about it.

Imagine going to a counselor and telling him you worked it all out in your head but you just don’t want to talk about it. Do you think he can help you!? Do you really think it’s worked out!? This is for our benefit, not His.  He knows and understands all. Our prayers need to be genuine and from the heart.

I’ve been much better at catching these shallow moments in my prayer life, but they still find me all too often. I have never (yes never) pulled myself away from what I was doing and opened my heart to God and walked away feeling like it was a waste of time. Every single time he has met me, and every single time I have been blessed. You think I would know this by now, but no, I still have to force myself at times to pull away from my ‘busy’ day and come to Him in prayer.

It bothers me how shallow I can be sometimes, but it delights me that I see it, and that He continues to call me to deeper waters …

Amazed,
~Matthew 

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

(Be)at[t]itudes


In Latin, the word 'beatitudes' is translated to 'blessings', which makes obvious sense concerning the context if you read Matthew 5:2-12. While the actual title "The Beatitudes" is not Scripture itself, but rather added for reader content, I never put much thought into what it actually translated to until now. To me, it was just a name, and regardless of the fact that it doesn't have anything to do with the translated word, 'attitude' always stuck out as a child in my head, and even as an adult.

Yet upon reading, I found that perhaps 'attitude' may in fact be appropriate as well. Of the blessings stated in The Beatitudes, some of them can indeed be intentional. First, here they are:
And he opened his mouth and taught them, saying: 
“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 
“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. 
“Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth. 
“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied. 
“Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy. 
“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. 
“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God. 
“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 
“Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you. 
(Matthew 5:2-12 ESV)
We can learn to be meek (humble, patient and docile). We can strive to hunger and thirst for righteousness, not our own pleasures or motives. We can learn to be merciful, or even look to be more pure in heart. We can learn to be peacemakers, rather than those who cause and fuel conflict.

So while these beatitudes, or these blessings, are given to encourage and comfort us, they most definitely show that we should learn to "be" these "attitudes" that God calls us to be. It's work to change, but thankfully, I won't be running out of any work to do for a while! =)

Loving growth ...

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Encouragement

My mother is a gifted writer, and while often private about it, I figured since she wrote this poem and printed it along with the picture below for my son years ago, that I figured it was safe to share.


Sometimes in life – you have to take chances
You are fairly sure you know the way
You plan each careful step
You hang on to the belief that you will succeed
You give confidence and hope to others
But there will be times you will stand alone
And doubt will slow your pace
You will look behind you and question “why”
                Fear is not a reason to stop
                Look inside and trust the person that is in you
                He will guide your way
                You will succeed and others will follow.
-          Karen Gasperoni

 I love this picture. Not just the one seen above but the one that my mother paints in your head. This picture of confidence and leadership, all the while knowing that there will be doubt at times, that we will struggle at times, and even feel alone. However there are always eyes on us, always those looking to us (often silently) for direction; for someone to follow. This poem reminded me of a passage I read yesterday: 
For thus says the One who is high and lifted up, who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy: “I dwell in the high and holy place, and also with him who is of a contrite and lowly spirit, to revive the spirit of the lowly, and to revive the heart of the contrite. (Isaiah 57:15 ESV) 
When we feel those moments of doubt, when we have those times of uncertainty, when our spirit is low and damaged, it’s His Spirit that resides with us. The Creator of the universe loves us personally and will be there to revive us from our struggles. What more encouragement do we need than that? This revival certainly doesn’t always happen on my time schedule, but that doesn’t mean He isn’t with me. I know that while I have times of being showered with blessings, there will be times that trials of life weigh me down. However His foundation is where I want to stand, and it’s in these times of peace, before the storms, that I need to continue to strengthen my stand on His foundation.

I thank my mother for her words of encouragement, and as a reminder that we all are leaders. Fear and doubt may try to stand in our way, but with Him, we will succeed; and best yet, others will follow! 
for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control. 2 Timothy 1:7 ESV)

Friday, December 3, 2010

Conflict Resolution



We all have conflict in our lives. As children we had it when we were learning the difficult lessons of social issues, and as adults we have it thinking that we have successfully learned from those lessons as children! The conflict itself doesn’t go, it’s just the way that we deal with it that changes. We’re all different, and we often see things from a different perspective, and hence we inevitably will find conflict. As a child we get hurt, or someone hurts our feelings, and we react as such. As an adult we may learn to try and control our responses we had as a child, but we also find other harmful (I think more harmful) ways of dealing with conflict, such as suppression disguised as control; that is me.

In prayer today I was shown (well, reminded) of how much conflict I not only try to avoid and control of my own, but how much I try to be that ‘negotiator’ and control conflict for others. Perhaps it’s for a friend, co-worker, family, or child, but I have this natural instinct to want to resolve it. I think in many ways it can be helpful, but much like my own conflict, I often don’t try to resolve it, I try to suppress it. That’s when my anxiety sets in; it’s my resident thorn.

"So to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited. Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong." (2 Corinthians 12:7-10 ESV)

Like Paul, I have asked for this thorn to be removed, however it is this thorn that keeps reminding me that I have absolutely no control over this. That peace through all this doesn’t come from my ability to control, but from my ability to surrender. I prayerfully do my part, I prayerfully talk, listen, and encourage not only myself but others. I hope I can be a godly counsel to others when they come to me with conflict in their life, but ultimately it’s not my burden. My burden is to take up my cross, every day, and follow Him (Luke 9:23). That cross is not made up of baggage from others, or even myself, that’s for Him to carry.

Lord, please continue to remind me that Your peace comes from my surrender to You, not my handle or control on a situation. Encouraging and helping not only myself but others, while still knowing that You are sovereign and fully in control needs to be my focus. Conflict resolution doesn’t come through myself and my work, it comes through You.

~Matthew

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Getting Uncomfortable

As my friend recently said when referring to his life and how he’s living it, “I’m getting uncomfortable”; this is a good thing.



More often lately I can reflect that same feeling. Perhaps it’s wanting to do more, or perhaps it’s wanting to drop more of my baggage at the cross, or perhaps at times it’s getting frustrated with my very unbalanced ratio of the number of His words I read compared to the number of His words I act out.  I too, am getting “uncomfortable”.

I know that I’ll be judged, and often times even more so by family and close friends who don’t share my faith (after all, the closer you are to someone, the more of their faults are seen). I’m far from perfect, I’ll gladly repeat that as many times as necessary, but yet it’s not from the judgment of others that I get my affirmation. I know the closer I step to Christ the more I will get weird looks, rolled eyes, and fingers pointed at me shouting “hypocrite”.

But that’s OK.

It’s more important that when people see me at work, they see 1 Peter 1:15, not just a Bible on my desk.

It’s more important that when people see my relationship with my wife, they truly see Ephesians 5:25, not just smiling faces.

It’s more important that when people see me at a party they see Romans 12:2 lived out in joy, not just someone who does things differently.

It’s more important that when I talk of my faith to others, I speak of it like 1 Peter 3:15, not like a judgmental religious person.

It’s more important for me to actually live out Matthew 28:19 than to volunteer in a few outreach activities a year.

It’s more important for me to think of my success in my career and my education as Paul does in Philippians 3:8 compared to Christ.

It’s more important for me to pray Proverbs 30:7-9 than to pray for things beyond what I truly need.

All I’m trying to say is that it’s more important for me to actually live out a handful of verses, than to be able to quote and cross-reference all of Scripture. My walk with the Lord is not a private thing; it needs to be seen in my life a lot more than it is now.

Getting uncomfortable,
~Matthew

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

I'm taller than you!




It seems lately that He is really working on my humility. So often in culture it's all about being the greatest; knowing the most; having the greatest faith ... this is not a new issue.

"But they kept silent, for on the way they had argued with one another about who was the greatest." (Mark 9:34 ESV)

What is even more sad is that I think this issue becomes most heated with our own brothers and sisters. We can spend so much time arguing about translations, laws, interpretations, or views that aren't focused around leading others to Christ. Study them, great, we should, but the Great Commission wasn't asking us to limit our Christian life to church and Bible studies.

Question. Do you imagine yourself having a faith of equal standing with Peter? Not the amount of missions he went on, or the number of people that he brought to Christ, or the conviction of his speeches, but his faith. He is just a man, but like Paul, another wonderful example to us of someone who learned to let Christ shine through. I think in some ways, through Peter's struggles, we can relate, but we miss the point that his faith is our faith. He was/is no closer to God than you and I (as some of my RC friends gasp). He had a purpose, a job, a commission; but so do we. Theological differences aside, just think about this verse:

"Simeon Peter, a servant and apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who have obtained a faith of equal standing with ours by the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ" (2 Peter 1:1 ESV)

If you accept what Peter lays out here with Jesus Christ, you and I stand hand in hand following the one true King. Some of us may mentor, some of us may teach, some of us may need someone to pour into us, but our faith is the same. That is why I am no more saved today than I was years ago when I accepted Christ, regardless of how much deeper in love I feel.

You know what this picture reminds me of now? Not just my adorable son trying to be taller and perform a balancing act! It's a reminder to me that no matter where we are on our walk, Christ fills in the gap (places that log) to make sure that we're all on the same level.

Walking with other believers eye to eye ...

Continue to remind me of that Lord ...

Matthew

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Baby Steps

A friend of mine was telling me about an experience he had at a UofM football game. He was sitting a row behind the family section and was able to see another part of the game that is often missed and forgotten; the fact that these young players are just kids, sons, and siblings.

He watched as a senior took the field and the excitement of the family peaked; you see, he's been with the team all 4 years, but this was the first time he got to get on the field for a play. He, along with many others, may dress for games, be a part of the team, but rarely get a chance to step on the field and make a play.



This got me thinking about my relationship with Christ. As I spent some time in 1 Peter it's quickly obvious that Jesus isn't asking for baby steps:
but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.” (1 Peter 1:15-16 ESV)
If we've accepted Christ the way that we are taught in the Word, we are definitely part of His team; salvation is ours. However the joy that is experienced, both by us and those that love us and watch us, is maximized when we step on that field. Why do we (I) hold back so much? What are we afraid of?
for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control. (2 Timothy 1:7 ESV)
The best part is, unlike the player I talked about above, our participation in the game is not limited to our talent, but simply our willingness to step on the field.

Father, give me the courage to give all of myself to you; not just when convenient. May I stop taking baby steps, and run all out towards you. Help me leave my junk behind that is slowing me down, and continue to remind me that my past doesn't matter, my failures are forgiven, and I'm Yours now. Yet I pray that I don't ever run alone; that along the way I grab the hands of those that are reaching out, yet too weak to stand. May I also grab the hands of those that may not even want to run with me and call me a fool ... they'll see ... they will. Amen.

Going long ... and I pray not alone.
~Matt

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Why do I keep running?

"Now the word of the LORD came to Jonah the son of Amittai, saying, “Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and call out against it, for their evil has come up before me.” But Jonah rose to flee to Tarshish from the presence of the LORD. He went down to Joppa and found a ship going to Tarshish. So he paid the fare and went on board, to go with them to Tarshish, away from the presence of the LORD." (Jonah 1:1-3 ESV)

I've read the story of Jonah many times but never truly saw myself in that story as I do now. After the past service at our church on Sunday, our pastor got me really thinking about what (or who) is the Nineveh in my life. Part of Jonah just wanted to see Nineveh punished, and didn’t want to give them a chance at redemption (made clear in later chapters), but also I see that Jonah had such a frustration and unbelief for Nineveh as he felt they wouldn't listen, let alone really change, so he hated the idea of wasting time and energy on them.

And that … is me.

There are people in my life whom I feel the same way about; from those that doubt the authenticity and/or authority of the Scripture, to those that all out profess Atheism. I’m not talking about those walking the streets and preaching to whom I don’t know, I’m speaking of those whom I have an established relationship with that I shut off the single Thing that could change their life, all because I don’t think they will ever change, or listen. I think to myself 'Why bother'? When conversation opens around others regarding my faith, I open up and freely share; but around them, I shut down in bitter frustration and almost anger, much like Jonah. 'Why do I waste my time' I ask to myself; 'their loss, not mine'.

How sad.

I feel Him calling me sometimes to witness to them, and all I want to do is get on a boat and head for some distant coast land to get away from the responsibility. It all comes down to whom I am looking to for affirmation; Christ, or the world?

Jesus, grant me the Grace to do Your Will. When I come to the edge of that dock, waiting to board for Tarshish, may I hear Your whisper; Your love. May I not conceal Your gift You gave me, but show it for all to see. Grant me the strength to open up, even to those whom I think will never see You, or Trust You. I’m not the judge, I’m just the messenger, and all too often the messenger who is deciding who to hand Your invitation to and whom not. May I seek Your affirmation only, and teach me how to love like you love … Amen

Thursday, July 29, 2010

On Earth as it is in Heaven

As I was reading through an article that Jon Bloom (from Bethlehem Baptist Church, MN) posted on the suffering/persecution of Christians around the world he said something that really struck me:

"But American Christians live in the most prosperous nation in world history and the one in which it costs the least to be a Christian. This environment can be deadly to faith. It allows false faith to masquerade as real very easily."

Does it make you feel a bit uneasy? I know it got me thinking. I wonder how I would stand in those situations? I hope to believe that I would let His strength support me (it's our choice to use that strength after all) but there is very little of me that would even consider wanting to be tested like that. I've learned that it's the fires that refine us, but defining a "good week" as being one that didn't include a beating because I profess His name is not one furnace I readily want to jump into.

However, reading last night (The Lazarus Life) I came across this passage and it somehow seems to fit my train of thought:

"[that you] may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God." (Ephesians 3:18-19 ESV)
There are a couple ways of looking at that passage, but for me, God's love for us is beyond our comprehension; it "surpasses our knowledge" of what we know. It is so beyond understanding that we can only accept It, or reject It.

However I wonder if my brothers and sisters who go to sleep at night with bruises on their bodies understand more of that love then I do here. I don't want bruises, I don't want to feel pain (or even see it), but I do want that relationship.

May I use my blessings, freedom, and protection that I have here to advance His Kingdom ... on earth, as it is in Heaven.

His
~Matthew ><>

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

At Peace in Chains - A Reflection

A reflection from my journal entry on July 14, 2008

But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for them a city. (Hebrews 11:16 ESV)
Then: During that time in 2008 things in the economy were really hitting home at Ford. This passage got me thinking about how while I should be thankful for my blessings here, my ultimate home is with Jesus.

When I think now about this "desire" that is spoke of, it reminds me  of another passage I read yesterday
And behold, an angel of the Lord stood next to him, and a light shone in the cell. He struck Peter on the side and woke him, saying, “Get up quickly.” And the chains fell off his hands. (Acts 12:7 ESV)
What struck me about that was when it was brought to my attention that Peter is in jail (again) because Herod (Herod Agrippa I) had just killed John's brother James and because this "pleased the Jews" Peter was also arrested. He was very likely about to be executed as well. So here he is in jail ...

SLEEPING! Yes, the angel had to wake him up!

Could you sleep? I couldn't! Here he is sitting in chains, waiting to be executed, so he decides to take a nap.

I wonder if it is because his desire, while it is understood he wanted to spread the Gospel, was not of this earth. He knew that God was in control, and that a place was being prepared for him. He truly was at peace in chains.

May we desire a better country; His. And when those chains get fastened around our wrists and ankles, may we find His peace, relax, and wait for when we are called, and watch the chains hit the ground.

His,
~Matthew

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Getting Upside Down!





I think I've been getting upside down again for a while; spending time in His Word more for information, than for transformation.
Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. (Romans 12:2 ESV)
I'm not suggesting there is anything wrong in reading Scripture for information, but it's wrong when I stop reflecting on that information that I've read. As I continue to read through 1 Kings, I am about to come to a point when King Solomon walks away from God. It's heartbreaking, truly, to see such a great king who was blessed with so much, raise his hands and praise God for all he has and speak beautiful words, only to know his upcoming choices.


1 Kings 8 captures blessings, prayers of dedication, a benediction, and even an amazing amount of offerings to the Lord; yet the promise and warning that begins in chapter 9 is seemingly forgotten by Solomon. It's a reminder for me how quick we can backslide and how easily we get caught up in our own self.


I'm so task oriented, and in many ways that can be a blessing. However, in some ways, like reading His Word, it can get me checking a box that I read something rather than letting Him work on me. Whether it be prayer, Scripture, or a teaching, I need to start taking more time reflecting again.
that he may incline our hearts to him, to walk in all his ways and to keep his commandments, his statutes, and his rules, which he commanded our fathers. (1 Kings 8:58 ESV)
Thank You for continuing to incline my heart to You, and may I get rightside up again! :)


His,
~Matthew

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Great Expectations

Don't you love those moments of positive expectation? Those moments where you have either been looking forward to them for a while, or those jewels of positive thoughts amidst tribulation? I have found myself trying to live in those moments more, enjoying my gift without letting outside forces pull me down. I am certainly not always successful! Most of my issues seem to stem from me wanting to control the situation, rather than doing my part and then giving it up to Him.



I've heard someone say that prayer without expectation is just unbelief in disguise. I think it's quite natural for us to feel that the picture is so big that my little problem isn't worth divine intervention, but we're not asked to think that way at all.
"But as for me, I will look to the Lord; I will wait for the God of my salvation; my God will hear me." Micah 7:7 (ESV)
The confidence in Micah is a goal for where I want to be at in my journey; sitting there, amidst a mess, knowing in my heart that He 'will' hear me.

Father help me to slow down, speak less, and listen more. Help me expect your blessings, support, and guidance with as much eagerness as a child has as he sees candles being lit for him on a cake!


Your baby boy,
~Matthew

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Picking Favorites

I was recently reminded of something that truly sickens me. I was interacting with a group of people on facebook and decided to browse an individual’s profile info as we were not friends and didn't know much about them. They professed Christ as their Lord, while at the same time belong to a group who is "praying" for the death of our current president. I've been disturbed by some things this administration has done, some greater than others, but I can never imagine myself professing Christ, Who "is" love, and using Him to ask for the death of a leader.

"First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth." 1 Timothy 2:1-4 (ESV)

He wants "all" to be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth, not whom "we" want to save. Little too much like wanting to play God if you ask me. If it is His will that a leader of a school, business, state, government is removed then it will happen. The fact that the individual isn't removed isn't a stamp of approval either. However praying for godly leaders to rise up and replace others is one thing, but for their death? No.

I can't recall whom to give credit for the quote but it states that "I haven't locked eyes with a person yet who doesn't matter to God". May we pray for our leaders, pray for our families, pray for our neighbors, especially if they don't know the Truth so that they may come to the knowledge of the Truth. Let's not pick favorites ... He doesn't ... unless it's Sports, because we all know He likes Detroit teams the best ... just look how He has blessed the Lions! :)


Tuesday, June 8, 2010

The Root of the Issue

So I was gardening the other day, and after I was done I decided to weed a bit in my yard. So where do I start? The easiest place possible of course! I started pulling some weeds in the cobblestone that surrounds my back deck. Oh how I wish all weeds were so easy to pluck!
"Other seeds fell on rocky ground, where they did not have much soil, and immediately they sprang up, since they had no depth of soil, but when the sun rose they were scorched. And since they had no root, they withered away." Matthew 13:5-6 (ESV)

Makes me wonder sometimes how deep my roots are anchored; or rather when the seeds are falling, where am I planting them within me? Have I let Him till the hardened fallow ground of my heart so when the seeds fall, they can take root?

The picture that I took isn't even a weed; it's a fallen maple seed that quickly took root but was the easiest of them to pluck. However it also reminds me of that Dawn Redwood I have growing in my front lawn. Bought as a tiny sapling, cared for, watered, and almost miraculously avoiding the path of the lawn mower week after week. Now? Oh it's still young ... but already strong! Its roots run deep; real deep. No fear of the lawnmower, no fear of the feet of playing children, no fear of being plucked. It's not finished growing, but it has the foundation it needs for a beautiful life.

Dash Seventeen

As I approached an old spot to pray the other day; a quiet, secluded, seldom travelled spot; I remembered how I etched in the dusty window “John 3:16” many months ago. It’s always great to reflect on such a foundational verse from time to time. Often I can get trapped in the study, history, and theology, of His Word and start to lose the purity of such a verse that highlights His love for us in such a basic way. However it was then that I sat down did I notice something about that etched writing … it was added to; not by me. Simply “-17” was added to the end of my writing which now read “John 3:16-17”.

"For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him." John 3:17 (ESV)

When I read this verse it is a wonderful reminder that while He certainly came to draw a line in the sand (Luke 12:51), His purpose was not to condemn, but rather He came bringing gifts freely offered to any who accept.

He didn’t lock the gates restricting anyone from coming to Him; He opened them.


Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Plenty of Room to Merge!



The problem I have with being "saved by Grace" is that it is very misleading, at least the way we use that term it is.  While salvation certainly begins there, it is not Grace itself that puts us on the "narrow road"; it's Grace that allows us to make our way to that road. It's like a (free) boarding pass, if you don't accept the pass, you aren't going very far. However, if you have the pass but don't get on the train, you ain't goin' anywhere either!

Granted, it's not about how fast you're going on the road, what you look like, what vehicle you're using, how often you pull over with a flat, all that matters is you're on the road, and moving; at least moving over the course of your lifelong journey.

"For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age" Titus 2:11-12 (ESV)

When I read that verse today at lunch it reminded me of just that. Grace is given for salvation, but it doesn't end there. It's used to train us to "renounce" our previous methods. It is what gives us the opportunity to renounce them; what gives us the opportunity to board that train, make a choice, and get on the road; even while others laugh at your course of action (that's why the road is narrow).

Also in that verse, the King James version uses the word lust (wordly lusts) rather than passion (wordly passions) as ESV/NIV does. Out of curiosity I looked it up and the Greek word being translated is "epithymia", which means passion, lust, or another definition that I really like is "what is forbidden". That dark cloud of forbidden passion that lures us in, promises us everything, but only gives short term extacy and leaves us with long term pain.

It's that pain that He wants us to avoid, and His Grace was given to train us to avoid just that. It's the pass that allows us to travel that narrow road ... that leads to Him ... waving your pass of Grace while traveling on the wide road will still only lead you to where that wide road is headed ...

“Strive to enter through the narrow door. For many, I tell you, will seek to enter and will not be able." Luke 13:24 (ESV)
"Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it." Matthew 7:13 (NIV)

It may be narrow, but there is always enough room for merging! It's guaranteed! =)

Honking (cuz I love Jesus)
~Matthew

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Building for Earthquakes



A building that is made to (try and) withstand earthquakes is not build with rigid stability, but rather flexible design; structurally soft if you will, not iron clad. I was reminded of that today during prayer as I read this passage:

“And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.” Ezekiel 36:26 (ESV)

You can call it a struggle, or you can call it a blessing, but stress often triggers heart palpitations for me. A struggle in the obvious ways that it gets scary or distracting (more distracting lately as I’ve been dealing with them for years so most of the scare is gone), but a blessing in a way that it most definitely is a sign to me that I am struggling with something, or not dealing with something properly. However after this passage (once I’ve read many times) it’s clear to me that I most definitely still have a heart of stone in many respects. Something major, or even something simple can trigger my internal earthquakes. The more I’m connected to Him, the softer my heart is and the better I deal with my internal earthquakes. However the more life seems to get me derailed (business, life issues, etc.) the more I try to do things on my own and my heart starts hardening up again. Then even the little tremors can set off some fractures in my heart.

Yet … 

When I see I’ve made some wrong turns, and find my way back to Him, that heart of flesh is there waiting for me. My life didn’t suddenly become less busy, my issues didn’t suddenly disappear … it’s just because I was able to give more to Him so that He can carry those burdens for me.

It’s crazy that I still stray more often than I want to admit, and still try to do things on my own … I know the routine … I know the peace that comes with Him … I know the joy … and my prayer is that I continue to learn from my mistakes, and will be lured away from Him less and less.

Feeling my heart soften …
~Matthew

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Skating with Him





As I was rollerskating with my family (and friends) this past Saturday, it occurred to me that it's much like my journey with Christ. You see, the devil is trying to keep me off the rink, saying things like "don't do that", "you can't do that", "don't you enjoy yourself", "worry about this", etc.

All the while, Jesus is just skating around on the track. Waiting for me to join Him.

When I do, I grab his arm and we have the most amazing time! I don't need to get off the track, in fact I can stay on there forever. The best part is that the enemy can't get "on" the track, he is restricted.

Christ keeps him away; he's just a spectator, with so many others.

It's when I take those breaks, sit down for a minute, have a breather, that he's all over me again. Clawing at me to stay off the track and remain in the crowd. The reality is that he's scared of what happens if I get back on the track ...

The better that I get to know Him, the more joy that fills my life. The better I get at skating, the more fun it becomes. After all, in the beginning it was work. Often seemed like something I had to do, out of obedience. I needed to learn how to skate. There were times I fell, and I felt arms picking me up, it must have been Him right? Anyway ...

Then He begins showing me more skills, tricks, ways to dance, and celebrate while I'm out there with Him. The better I get, the less breathers I end up taking. I just want to "get back out there". I want to stay on the track; I don't want to get off.

What a beautiful picture that the devil has to wait outside the track to get me. After all, in the presence of Christ there is no fear, no enemy.

I see myself smiling more, and my struggles seem to be less impactful. In multiple areas of my life I have found the desire to once and for all say "I'm done". I can't waste my day, this gift from Him, thinking about that garbage. After all, it's just too much fun to be skating!

Then it gets even more fun!

Perhaps every once in a while I'll get the privilege to see someone from outside the rink look at us skating together, with that unsure look on their face that I wore for so long. Perhaps I can see them finally tear themselves away from the claws of the enemy (invisible to them) and get on the track for the first time.

Oh look at that smile! I told you it was fun!

Oh no! They fell down! (It sure does hurt sometimes let me tell you)

I see Him look at me and give me a nod; He wants me to help them up.

"Me?"

What a responsibility; what a privilege!

May we all learn to skate with Him, and may we all learn to help those who fall trying.

I hope to see you on the rink,
~Matthew

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Weapons Training





Sometimes a great group discussion can be beneficial not just for the group, but for yourself. As I was talking through an issue recently, something I said really hit home and became more understood then ever before. It's a simple truth, but powerful to really ponder even if you understand the basic theology behind it.

God likes to show us many times how the logic of this world is opposite of the logic of His Kingdom. I shared how as Christians we understand that true power doesn't come through might, but rather full submission to Him. We become the most powerful and bring Him the most glory when we lay our life down at the foot of the cross. Not something the world will parallel in our life here.

We can parallel that with the Holy Spirit, and His power, and how I need to understand that in the same way. While the Spirit dwells within me, I don't "use the Holy Spirit" against the enemy ... the Holy Spirit "uses me". 

We are the tool, not Him. We are most powerful when we come the Spirit in prayer, and let Him lead us as we lay ourself down. "That" is when we can be moved. "That" is when He makes a difference. "That" is how He changes the world.

When we understand that ... and submit ... we become a formidable weapon! Just don't forget Who's actually doing the damage. Pride gets in the way.

Holy Spirit, use me!
~Matthew

Friday, April 23, 2010

Gimme Gimme Gimme!

Why do we in this world always seem to want more? OK, I know I don't speak for everyone, but if we're honest we all have at least a little selfish desire in our life for things that appeal to us, I know I do. We have these blessings, yet we still want more.

"is it too small a thing for you that the God of Israel has separated you from the congregation of Israel, to bring you near to himself, to do service in the tabernacle of the Lord and to stand before the congregation to minister to them" Numbers 16:9 (ESV)

Some of us compare our presumed misfortunes, or (seemingly) lack of blessings to others who seem like they have more; the grass is always greener.

"And the people spoke against God and against Moses, “Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? For there is no food and no water, and we loathe this worthless food.” Numbers 21:5 (ESV)

Loathe is a pretty serious word. They stated that "we loathe this worthless food". It was this "worthless food" that had sustained them to this point; something they say now they loathe. How heartbreaking. How quickly they forget.

... or should I say how quickly "we" forget.

We have these spirituals highs, often followed by some painful lows.





You know what I found though? The more I grab those high times, and just look down at the enemy and say "not this time!", those lows are grabbing me less and less. Marceen and I are on an amazing journey and she told me one time that she knows there is coming a time when the enemy will not be able to get a hold of us. Oh, sure, there will be punches! However those dark low times are because I felt Him lifting me up, and I was so clouded by the tranquility I let go of His hand. We don't just need Him to lift us up, we need Him to sustain our highs! How do you think we got there in the first place!!! =)

Even though I know Who wins, I don't doubt the power of the enemy, I'm not naive to think that I will be immune to attacks, I'm just saying that "in" my trials I need to realize that His joy is abound. We don't get joy when the world functions like the way we want, we get joy from Him and Him alone. Two different people can lose their jobs, loved ones, or go through other painful trials and react completely differently.

Seriously, I don't want trials, who does?. However He's showing me that He will not abandon me in them. I need to continue to learn not to want anything more ... except more of Him.

Lord, increase my faith!

Wanting more ... of You
~Matthew

Friday, April 16, 2010

Covered in Crimson

So as a family one time camping nearby, we decided to visit Hell; Hell Michigan that is. It was/is a very very very small town in Michigan that has not much more then a few corner stores and shops in the middle of nowhere that probably survive purely on the commercial aspects of their name. However after the brief few minutes of interest faded, we were very ready to go. In fact my son asked that we not come back; I think it creeped him out a bit!


Having said that, I don't really want to go back either; it left me with a weird feeling. Not that I'm trying to get on my soapbox and state how wrong the concept is and their marketing efforts are ill founded, after all I decided to visit, but it just wasn't a place that I think I will ever see again. Having said that, a somewhat parallel thing happened to me recently in a much more powerful and meaningful way that I thought I would share.

We all struggle with sin, though not all of us call it what it truly is. However, one particular sin that I have been struggling with over the past several years recently came to a point where I had a major breakthrough. All along I would encourage myself with the fact that I was "improving" ... or assuring myself that I was in this sin "less and less". However I always held the feeling of wondering when I will slip next. Wondering how long I can keep my "good streak" going. Will I make progress, or will I take a step backward? It was a sin that I also began to share with my amazing, wonderful, and graceful wife. Her encouragement and understanding proved to me yet again how blessed I am to be in the marriage I have been gifted.

However after falling into that sin again one day, praying and considering my shortcomings, I was given a level of Grace and Understanding that I didn't expect. At first I began thinking about how I just returned to my own vomit and becoming angry at myself ...

Like a dog that returns to his vomit is a fool who repeats his folly. - Proverbs 26:11 (ESV)

It disgusted me so much it is very difficult to put into words. This sin, which I used to almost accept as just a struggle, seemed so utterly dirty to me that I was incredibly disturbed that I brought that into the Light that is in me. Yet ... yet I was reminded that "He still loves me" ... and even that brought on an incredible wave of various emotions. However what it ended up leaving me with was a gift that I could not have found through any Other; closure.

I'm done! It's over!

While in the past, walking away from my sin by "doing a little better" next time seemed like enough repentance to me; and I'm sure to Him it was part of my journey that He accepted, as we all struggle. However this was the moment ... this was the time ... this was the day ... He said, "you're done!" ... and I said, "Amen!"

The thought of "how long can I keep this going" is not even in my head anymore! Even the horribly superstitious (evil) behavior of thinking "But Matt, if you say you're done and something happens ... you may have just jinxed yourself" is gone. I said I'm done! If the Son has set you free, you are free indeed!

... I wonder what He is going to set me free from next!? =) How exciting!

Covered in Crimson,
~Matthew

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Never Throw Out the Instruction Manual!





To some my answer to the question I am about to ask may seem absurd, while some could relate, and still yet to some it would be conflicting and stirring. Regardless, I just thought I'd share something that passed through my mind a while back and perhaps you can get some thoughts going with this yourself. I was pondering my finances, the issue on the love for money, my growing (yet baby) knowledge of Scripture, the lottery, what (good) I could do with a lot of money, etc, and I came up with a question that I asked myself.

If I could choose one of the two things below (but had to pick one) what would it be?

1) $10,000,000 in cash - *However the catch was that I had to "turn in" all of my Bibles (of any form: printed, electronic, audio, etc.) and would not be allowed to read or reference them for the rest of my life.

* I could however still pray, worship by singing, journal, etc. However I would never be allowed to hold in my hands the Word of God in any form, or even see it, for the rest of my life. And please, no loopholes here like you can have Marceen read it to you aloud! You know what I mean! =)

-OR-

2) Say no to the $10,000,000 offer and keep my Bibles.

Years ago, I would have taken the money in a second, or at least after a very short time of thought. Today I don't really need time to ponder the answer to my own created question; I'd pass up on the money in a heartbeat.

While I know some can relate, some will think I'm crazy, and that's fine. Even some of my brothers and sisters in Christ may point out that I'm already saved and I know enough of His Truth to stay on His path and to think of the amazing good that I could do with that money. However salvation isn't my point here. It's what "I" need ... Money may give me a quick high, and even a lasting high if I do Kingdom work with it, but His Word is absolutely needed in my daily life.

1) I use it to rock myself to sleep most evenings; peace beyond understanding.
2) Reading together has deepened my marriage beyond measure.
3) It helps me show my children Who they need; and Who they have.
4) It recharges me on my lunch-breaks at work.
5) It exercises my brain as I continue to study deeper, alone and with others.
6) I come to It joyful and leave it filled with even more joy.
7) I come to It in tears and leave it comforted.
8) I come to It with questions, and leave with answers.
9) I come to It as myself ... and leave It as something more.

I could go on and on ...

Keep the dough,
~Matthew

Friday, April 9, 2010

Time to Fly

I'm not sure if you know the story or not but for me this speaks wonderfully of trust in God. When the Israelites got near the "promised land" they sent spies to go check it out. The spies came back and were terrified of the warriors that were in the land and feared for their life. Rather then thinking back to the amazing signs and miracles that God has blessed them with all the way here, they now yet again fall into their pattern of not trusting God. Caleb and Joshua on the other hand saw their fallacy:

"And Joshua the son of Nun and Caleb the son of Jephunneh, who were among those who had spied out the land, tore their clothes and said to all the congregation of the people of Israel, “The land, which we passed through to spy it out, is an exceedingly good land. If the Lord delights in us, he will bring us into this land and give it to us, a land that flows with milk and honey. Only do not rebel against the Lord. And do not fear the people of the land, for they are bread for us. Their protection is removed from them, and the Lord is with us; do not fear them.” Numbers 14:6-9 (ESV)



Although I love this story, too often in my life I find myself in the place of the Israelites, not Caleb or Joshua. I want to wait until all my ducks are in a row before I make my move; take the step. "Sure God I'll walk across that valley on this beam here but only until they are finished setting up the safety nets and mats so if I fall and You don't catch me, I'll still be OK". That's not faith in God, that's faith in me; self idolatry. This also ties back into a couple other blogs about expectations and backup plans ...

Thankfully I have a heart that doesn't want that to be me. Thankfully I have a Savior who is walking with me on this journey encouraging me to take bigger leaps of faith. Leap by leap, hop by hop, until one day I take my final hop ... and find out I'm flying! :)

My ducks will never be in such a way that will satisfy me so I need to stop worrying about that. I'm not going to be the one duck sitting on the frozen pond watching the others fly around me ... I'm not ... I'm not ...

Working on my wings ...
~Matthew

Thursday, April 8, 2010

What a Ride!

The past week has been a roller coaster ride for me; starting off a bit insane, getting a little shaken up, but finally getting back to where I need to be. While I often share my heart on here some issues cross over into others lives that I don’t wish to invade so let’s just say that it was a very stressful Easter weekend; the enemy was at work for sure. In turn it lead to a few days full of anxiety filled aftershocks and crazy mind games. I don’t even need to tell you specifics but I know that all of you have had times of anger, frustration, darkness, worry, etc.

However, though this isn’t really new information, I was able to draw something from this experience that will help me be stronger in the future.

I happen to catch a talk from Joyce Meyer. While I know who she is I haven’t listened to her outside a brief clip here and there. However as I come off my knees in prayer, put my earbuds back in, turn on the radio, I hear her voice (paraphrasing here):
“What are you expecting? Are you living a life wondering when the next bad thing will happen? When the next shoe will fall? What evil or attack will you be faced with next? Or … or are you expecting a life of blessings? Are you expecting to experience His joy, His peace, His strength?”

She talked about living our life on purpose. Talked about how we don’t expect to walk into our closet and our clothes to fly on our bodies, we need to purposefully put them on. Likewise we need to purposefully choose to put on Him.

Then later in prayer and reflection of the Word, I got to thinking back to the holiday weekend and one thing I didn’t do. I didn’t tell Marceen (or myself) verbally (and place it my heart spiritually) that “He’s in control”. Sure, we need to act, and do the things we need to do on our part to protect ourselves and guard against evil, but after we do what we can do, we need to put it in His hands; and be done.

And by perfect design, if we follow that method, it will lead us to a place of peace we all desire.
1) Know that He has complete control.
2) Now, since He has control, you can expect blessings (even if there are trials)
3) Likewise, since He’s in control, and you’re now expecting blessings, you won’t be worrying. You’re in His arms.

Oh so simple and perfect of a design and yet so hard for us controlling humans to master. It is a rollercoaster ride indeed … but it’s not out of control. In fact, it’s under so much control we need to sit back and enjoy the ride. I don’t want to be gripping on the handlebar so tight I don’t see the amazing view that He’s taking me through.

~Matthew

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Dumping my Backup Plan

OK, so I wake up at 3:30AM Tuesday and all I hear in my head is "Read Ruth 1-4" ... lol ... yeah, I'm a freak =) ... but that's ok, I like being one. Although even for me that was weird, so I try to go back to sleep and write it off as some weird dream or random thought I happen to have. So morning comes (again) and I get ready for work but this is still on my mind. At this point I'm thinking, what the heck, I'll read the book of Ruth (only 4 chapters anyway) again and see if it speaks to me; might as well since I'll be in the Word somewhere, might as well make it Ruth today I thought.

Then at lunch during prayer (with one of the Christian groups I meet with here at Ford for a Tuesday Bible study) Ruth is brought up ... and while Ruth is a significant story, it's still a very small book and for it to come up during prayer ... that day ... was rather fascinating.

So I read through Ruth again, seeing if He would reveal to me something new. It is a wonderful story of devotion, and while we can learn a lot from her, I still didn't feel the Spirit telling me anything as to why it would be on my mind. Regardless, I pondered the Word as I went on working through the day.

However later that day in prayer something hit me. Now this may not seem like something major to you but all I know is that when I said something in prayer I immediately went to Ruth in my mind, and it most definitely painted a picture I needed to see. Because as I'm in prayer, and concerned over a particular issue, I am trying to give that anxiety to Him. However, at the same time in the back of my mind, I'm justifying this with worldly methods:

"Matt, even if giving it to God doesn't work, just relax, meditate, and try to focus on something positive. Matt, even if God isn't really out there, you can still find a way to relax and work through this"

That's my problem; I have a backup plan! That's not submission ... that's not trust ... that's a seed of doubt that I'm watering that will lead me right back to the dark pit I used to be in for so many years of my life! Yuck! Out! Done! ...

Looking at the picture below, Marceen didn't have a backup plan for climbing down that pyramid! It wasn't easy for her, she was scared, and she could have asked for help, or I could have butt scooted down with her, but no, she needed to get down, and there was one path that would lead her that way.


Did Ruth have a backup plan?

"But Ruth said, “Do not urge me to leave you or to return from following you. For where you go I will go, and where you lodge I will lodge. Your people shall be my people, and your God my God." Ruth 1:16 (ESV)

No she didn't. There was no, "If it doesn't work I'll listen to you and return, but I'll give it a shot ..."

Did the Isrealites have a backup plan if The Cloud hung around for longer then they had wanted? After all, they were headed to the promised land! Don't you think they wanted to get there?

"Even when the cloud continued over the tabernacle many days, the people of Israel kept the charge of the Lord and did not set out." Numbers 9:19 (ESV)

"Whether it was two days, or a month, or a longer time, that the cloud continued over the tabernacle, abiding there, the people of Israel remained in camp and did not set out, but when it lifted they set out." Numbers 9:22 (ESV)

No, they didn't have a backup plan. They were wandering in a dessert, headed to the beautiful promised land, but if that cloud hung around for several months, they stayed. There was no backup plan.

How often my mind wants to control my situation. How often I want to make sure that I have all my bases covered. How often I just try to figure out all the answers.

Lord, I'm dumping my backup plan. Like a parent waiting for their child to jump in the pool for the first time, I know you're there. I may make a splash ... and I may go under water for a little bit ... but never enough to harm me ... I want to feel your arms around me more then I'm scared of the water ...

Cannonball! =)

Your baby boy ...
~Matthew

Thursday, March 25, 2010

¡A mi me gusta mi nombre!



Over the past few days I've been thinking a lot about a certain biblical group of individuals, the Levites. I think it is also interesting to note that my biblical namesake, Matthew, was also called Levi. While this certainly is not some amazing coincidence, I still think it interesting to ponder as that name has deeply penetrated my heart as of late.

Here is this group of individuals who have been set aside for God, even among his chosen nation, they themselves have been chosen for a unique roll. The tribe of Levi has special privileges to go along with their great responsibilities. From their rolls in maintaining the Holy places to being the first to give at times (as seen below in just 2 recent examples that I read)

“Only the tribe of Levi you shall not list, and you shall not take a census of them among the people of Israel. But appoint the Levites over the tabernacle of the testimony, and over all its furnishings, and over all that belongs to it. They are to carry the tabernacle and all its furnishings, and they shall take care of it and shall camp around the tabernacle." Numbers 1:49-50 (ESV)

"And you shall take the Levites for me—I am the Lord—instead of all the firstborn among the people of Israel, and the cattle of the Levites instead of all the firstborn among the cattle of the people of Israel.” Numbers 3:41 (ESV)

My point is that they were called to be set apart. Not that God loved them more, but for whatever reason they were called to be different.

And as for me ... Matthew ... Levi ... it's a reminder that I need to be set apart for God. We who profess Christ as our Lord are that holy nation. Now, God dwells in us, and we are to carry that responsibility in our own lives. We need to set ourselves apart from the rest of the world. Not in isolation, but in love, peace, and joy, so that we can be His light.

May the ways of the Levites continue to dwell in us all. May we lead by servitude.

His,
~Matthew

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Christians don't suffer

Yeah, that's a funny one isn't it! Although I've never got asked this question I think I've felt the thoughts come my way when I share my struggles at times with non-believers:

Q: So Matt, if God is so good (to you), why are you struggling so much at times and getting beaten up?

A: If God exists, and salvation through Jesus is the path to eternity and all others lead to hell, and I wasn't on His path ... why would the enemy be attacking me? I (we) get attacked when we're in the game and we're going for the goal.

All that does to me is prove that the enemy exists, and that He exists, and that I'm on the right path.



Yet at the same time, He is supposed to be the Lion of Judah. There is no fear where He is present because He casts out fear. Which is why I do think that if we are allowing Him to control our lives we will never lose, battled, but not for a loss. A professional boxer who wins in the 9th, 10th, 12th, or 15th round often doesn't look like he is ready to go enjoy the rest of his day, but he still didn't lose.

"We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed" 2 Cor 4:8-9 (ESV)

Or perhaps with fear and trembling I can rephrase the above verse. "We WILL be afflicted, perplexed, and persecuted" ... does that fit my battles? Oh yes.

I have my afflictions ... I am perplexed at times at the Will of God ... and while I do feel in minor ways I have been persecuted, I can't imagine the pain that is being felt by our brothers and sisters across the world.

I firmly believe that though we will be afflicted, perplexed, and persecuted, we should still have joy, and that is our challenge. We don't have to think that misery is what comes with a Christian life, we are expected to live our life to the fullest. We just have to know how to give those troubles to Him when they come so we 'can' still have that joy ... and trials will come ... unless ... well ... here, let me say this:

Frankly, if you're life is going peachy, you don't have any bumps in the road, and nothing has made you question your beliefs, I dare to say that either the enemy hasn't got to you yet, or more likely, you're on his road, not His road.

Check the road signs ... God loves you, and will protect you ... the enemy hates you and seeks to destroy you ... just make sure you're not doing the destroying for him.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

My weapon ...

Imagine yourself in a battle; physical, emotional, spiritual, etc. I assume you would want your finest weapons at the ready; after all, we all need to be prepared when we are called to fight.

I sat praying last night about one thing, and God pointed me in another direction, as usual to which seemed like the root of what I needed to be praying for at that moment. I began to think of the weapons that I have that can help me in my Spiritual battles. Yes, the Word is the sword of the Spirit but it wasn't that weapon that He wanted me to see. However it was in my room (at that moment anyway). Just behind that door ...


Once you realize the weapon you need to use, wouldn't you dust it off, take care of it, sharpen it? Wouldn't you make sure it was good and ready so when you had to fight the enemy it could be with you?

We are called to sharpen each other as brothers and sisters in Christ. We are called, as husbands, to wash our wives with the Word, build them up, and love them as Christ loved the church; thus we are expected to lay our lives down for them.

My weapon is my Godly wife.

However if not taken care of, those weapons can become dusty, mistreated, and worst of all, felt unwanted or unneeded.

As I was praying she was sleeping behind those doors. Not just my wife, but also the greatest weapon I can have at my side. Men, we need to take care of our wives ... as Christ takes care of us.

Father, may I never forget the amazing gift (and weapon against the enemy) that you gave me here on this spinning rock. Help me to learn to encourage more, critique less, give more, take less, and continue to build her up with your Word, prayers, and love. Thank You for Your Grace, and undeserved gifts.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Ka-Boom! That was for me! :)



Did you ever have the pleasure of being the recipient of a surprise party? I did, and it was great! :) Even better, it remained a surprise, because as you know not all surprises actually make it to being an actual surprise by the time it comes! My wife did a wonderful job and it was an awesome afternoon/evening. There is something about being celebrated that just fills us with happiness. I'm not one for enjoying being the center of attention, especially when it comes to social engagements, but it was different; I felt loved by so many people.

Well, did you know that we get an even greater party when we find choose His path? I was reading a devotional and it brought me to Luke, chapter 15. In particular verse 7 (perhaps a verse that you've read many times before):

"Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance." Luke 15:7 (ESV)

Can you imagine heaven rejoicing for you? Angels celebrating? I wonder what fireworks may have happened (and will happen) for us! To a non-believer it seems like a fairy tale, to a believer it's even better. The cool part is, if you want a party for yourself, all you got to do is ask to sign up! :)

Ka-Boom! =)
~Matthew

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Digging for Cheerios

OK, so I'm cleaning my couch yesterday and of course with kids ranging in age from 13 to 3 in the house I expected to find some treasures buried in the couch, but not to this extent! It turns out that when I went to do my usual hand sweep I found that my hand went in farther then I before ... a lot farther! Wow was there stuff back there! Crazy!


I ended up taking a picture because I thought it was too funny not to send my wife but then my mind started going toward my life, and God. I thought of those areas in my life, my soul, my deepest cracks that sometimes I don't even know are there, and I thought of what is hiding in them.

Garbage? Sure ... a lot of that. In fact Marceen pointed out to me that since it was a couch we got from a friend of ours, and I found the couches' "secret hiding spot" that some of that stuff wasn't even ours. It's garbage that we've carried over from someone else ... or to put it in a life perspective; baggage.

It reminds me of what I'm stuffing in my cracks may be garbage that I'm carrying from others in my life ... the chips on our shoulder perhaps.

But you know what I also found? A few treasures ... a few memories ... that when you pull them out you can't help but smile. Like pulling out a toy that makes you think of that smiling giggling child holding it! Or even the cheerio that makes me think of those precious faces sitting on the couch watching them eat as they talk, play, or watch TV ... good stuff ... really good stuff!

I don't know about you, but I'm going to live a life that stuffs cheerios in every crack ... so that when I need them, I can always search and find an old memory that reminds me of how blessed I have been. Yes, garbage will accumulate ... however my prayer is that I will continue to clean that out, give it to Him, but hold on to the blessings and be thankful!

If I'm honest it also makes me sad thinking of that day when I'm cleaning my couch and I don't find anything but maybe a lonely receipt, or a couple coins ... but no toys ... no cheerios ... because they're all too old to play with toys ... *sigh* ... but that's OK ... that's what He's teaching me ... to enjoy the cheerios while they're there ... and who knows ... God willing I hope as a grandpa to fill those couches again!!! =)

So if you'll excuse me I need to do some housekeeping ... I'm digging for cheerios!

"Children are a gift from the Lord; they are a reward from him." Psalm 127:3 (NLT)

~Matthew


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