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!

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

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,

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! =)


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,

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 ...

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.


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 ...
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