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
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