Saturday, December 10, 2011

Playing for Him


In the last few days I've been through some difficult trials as well as some beautiful moments. From marriage, to parenting, to family, to friendships, to my own journey, it's been an action packed week. I've heard words of tragedy, and I've had times of complete peace. I've had some amazing times, and I've had some amazing trials. The thought of going through a week like I went through in the way I used to handle it boggles my mind.

I've tried life on own. I've tried to poke holes in the Bible, doubt the Resurrection, roll my eyes at a fairy-tale faith that some claimed as "Truth", and took care of things on my own. It worked out pretty well actually. School, career, money, friends, etc. Yet I never felt so empty. I of course didn't choose to really look at that aspect of my life (or even look like it on the outside). After all, on paper I was doing pretty good. It was those quiet times that got to me ... those times I had to myself when all the stuff I was doing was done for the night, and it was just me ... and silence. Anyway, I digress ...

Playing for Rebekah this morning was just another one of those moments where I feel His hand on me. It's impossible to explain unless you experience it yourself but I'm talking about something far beyond peace, or affirmation, or even love. To journey with the Lord in my life takes a beautiful moment, and makes it glorifying. To experience those times when I look at my wife, or child, with not eyes of a loving husband or father, but through His eyes, is life changing.

I often recall how my body is a Temple of the Holy Spirit (when meditating on what that means and how I should treat it). However, to stop there is awfully selfish. I need to look onto others that way too. When you look at your spouse, do you see a Temple of the Holy Spirit? You should.
"Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body. (1 Corinthians 6:19-20 ESV)"
So when I was playing for Rebekah this morning, I wasn't just playing for her, I was playing for Him. It's this type of relationship that helps me get through those crazy moments, and enjoy the beautiful ones even that much more.

Peace to you through Christ on this most beautiful season,
~Matthew

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Food Processing



I've really been struggling as of late to get back into my routine that I love so much. Primarily I speak of running and blogging. I wouldn't say I'm in a spiritual desert, not at all. However I sometimes feel like He's blowing His Words into me like I blow into an empty bottle. There's air in there, but it's not going anywhere! Running keeps my physically healthy, and writing keeps me moving along His path spiritually.

Everyone needs to process their learning somehow, and for me, it's when I write. And as much as I finish my plate, or fill it with healthy choices, I need more than food to fill me up.
"And he humbled you and let you hunger and fed you with manna, which you did not know, nor did your fathers know, that he might make you know that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD." (Deuteronomy 8:3 ESV)
OK, I'm going to get a little weird here but it's what I do best. You eat, you digest, and it pumps nutrients through your body as it goes through your system, right? (I'm leaving out the last part!) Well I feel full right now, and not just physically full. However I haven't really taken much time at all to digest all of this, and it's not doing me any good. I've learned some amazing things, shared some amazing times with friends, continue to stay in the Word and discuss stuff with the family, tended to my marriage, as well as had some stumbles (no big surprise there). However I haven't processed it as much as I want, and writing this all down really helps me. I love capturing in words my successes and failures; it helps me tremendously!

Recently, I put aside some "stuff" in my life that has been getting in the way of all this and look forward to balancing a bit more. I'm excited to see what He helps me process!

Thus I encourage you too, that even though this is a busy time of the year, spend some time processing yourself. Some can do it best with a friend, some need silence, and some write! However, don't let life get so busy that you don't have a chance to think about it all. Every day we write a check (in the amount of 24 hours of life) to what we give our time. Some of those purchases are beautiful, and we should think and enjoy those moments! Some are tragic, and we may need someone to come along side us to help cash those moments out. Whatever the case, I pray you find Him in each one.

His,
~Matthew

Friday, November 4, 2011

Pondering Change


As my son and I sat at the beach on a cool fall evening, listening to waves, and seeing how far the moon's light could stretch, I couldn't help but ponder change. You see this was the weekend before our move and I had a chance to go on a camping trip with my son and some other friends. There were a lot of things on my mind, but none more than my wife and 4 children.

Each of them (as I) had a different perspective on the move, and positive or negative, it was surrounding how as individuals or as a family unit we would adjust to the change. Needless to say it was the hardest on my teenage daughter, and easiest on our 4 month old (I know you must be surprised)! Change has a way of bringing out some emotions that otherwise may not have been surfaced.

For me, the weight of my struggle as a father raising my family in a very uncomfortable environment began to shed as the move came to a close. So much of my strength (from Him) was being used to protect my family from external environments outside my control. Yet as I breath a sigh of relief, change for others isn't as easy.

My oldest daughter, while overall positive, struggles with the social changes that brings her farther away from friends. None of this comes as a surprise to me, yet as I think about these struggles with her I see even light in this difficult change. Growth is often uncomfortable, and while I don't willingly expose my children to random uncomfortable situations, I think it's times like these that help an individual to grow. It teaches us to lean not on ourselves and our own understanding, but on Him and His.

When I look back on my journey as a Christian man, father, and child, it's those times in the fire when I was being refined that I am thankful for the most. Unfortunately when you're in that valley it's hard to raise your hand and express your thankfulness; it's only after the scraping off of those unrefined elements that we stand back and see the finished product. So while I am thankful for the end product, I am reminded that a fire was still involved.

It helps me as a father keep perspective with my children. I am learning not to be overly critical (being sensitive to the fact that they may be in a fire), but also at the same time not to shelter them and fear them entering the fire themselves. If it is my desire for my children to become more like Christ (and it is), then why would I want to steer them away from a situation that would cause growth? It reminds me of a quote:
"Isn’t it ironic that we often pray for God to make us Christlike, but the moment God allows something into our lives that would answer this prayer, we immediately send out a fervent prayer request to all our friends to have that circumstance removed?" - Henry Blackaby
We must shed in order to grow. My prayer is that I will model that to my children when I go through times of difficulty as well. May I give guidance and correction as a father in peaceful love and not model anxiety and frustration.
"And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?" - (Luke 12:25 ESV)

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Packing Light ...

It's been a while since I've taken the time to write as I've been quite busy with moving. While that sounds like a reasonable explanation, it's really not as I'm sure I could have found the time. See I don't do this so that my words get read, I do this so that my writing these words helps me grow in this journey I'm on. While I am blessed and touched that at times my own struggles, perspectives, or victories, resonates with someone who comes across these posts, make no mistake that this is still primarily my journal. Journaling has been a key discipline in my growth as it's taken my head knowledge, and helped it penetrate into my heart. I really missed this.

So all that being said, I have to say that during this very busy time I have clearly felt the hand of God on me during this move. I didn't pray for a safe move, I didn't pray for my "stuff" to make it from one house to another, I didn't pray that my work would be flexible and understanding during the move, nor did I pray that I would have financial stability for the extra costs that come up during such a move. However, I did pray that His peace would be on me during this move, and that He could help me just take one step at a time.

That prayer was clearly answered.

And yet I did have a safe move, and my stuff did make it safely over, and work was incredibly flexible, and unexpected financial blessings made the move even smoother. The best part is, no matter what anyone else thinks, I can look back and know that it was all God; no part of that was my flesh. I am clearly not that calm by nature!

"But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you." - Matthew 6:33

So we're settled in and making this house our new home; even Rebekah likes her new view by the fire! Yet as I sit here writing these words and looking around this beautiful home, I can't help but realize that I'm still just a pilgrim on a journey. A traveler waiting to make his way home; enjoying the views along the way, but knowing his destination still lies ahead of him. This "stuff" that we acquire during our lives reminds me of what Randy Alcorn said. He reminded us that if we build treasures for ourselves here on earth, then each day we are just walking farther away from them. However, if we build up our treasures in Heaven, each day we find ourselves closer to them.

Here's to enjoying our blessings and packing light, for our real journey home!

His,
~Matthew

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Look what I made Father!


I love making pizza, almost as much as I enjoy eating it! However, most of my times goes into making that foundation, the dough. I not only have to take the time to knead it properly, but I also have to take the time to let it rise. Finally, once that is done, I can begin to stretch it to let it take shape.

Did you ever try to stretch pizza dough that wasn't ready to be stretched? At times I try to shortcut the process if I'm running late; however it's never an easy task. It's sort of like trying to stretch a rubber band and make it keep its shape! No easy feat, and one that often leaves me frustrated.

A friend and I were talking yesterday and he reflected that in order to grow, we need to stretch. I shared how I've grown in my faith, outreach, and have done more things to challenge that. It's been fruitful, but it's been a stretch; a challenge. Much like that dough, we need to stretch to begin to take the shape of the cross. Much like that dough it takes time, and multiple pulls, tugs, and spins in various directions, as our natural reaction is to retract into that rubbery ball of self. Eventually though, even our retractions begin to show signs of growth.

At times, like the dough, we need to just sit and wait on God. Let His Word and Spirit leaven us so that we are ready to be stretched some more. Much like dough began as a grain of wheat, we too began with just a seed. Though through refinement, and His love and care, we can begin to make something out of that seed.

Though like all good pizza, the fun and flavor comes in those toppings! Once stretched, He begins to grow His fruit on us. This pliable foundation that has been shaped is now a medium for many different and wonderful things. Each pizza is different, but delicious in their own right. Likewise, we have different spiritual gifts that we are used to reach others. Not every pizza is the same, and not every brother or sister is the same.

Yet without stretching and yielding to the Holy Spirit's call on our life, we become a rubbery ball that is left with only potential. He still loves us; but oh how much more glorious it will be to see Christ on that day hold us up to the Father and say, "Look what I made Father!"

Stretching,
~Matthew

"All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work." (2 Timothy 3:16-17 ESV)

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Family is More ...


A man was stranded on a deserted Pacific island for years. Finally one day a boat comes sailing into view, and the man frantically waves and draws the skipper’s attention. The boat comes near the island and the sailor gets out and greets the stranded man.  After a while the sailor asks, “What are those three huts you have here?” “Well, that’s my house there.” “What’s that next hut?” asks the sailor. “I built that hut to be my church.” “What about the other hut?” “Oh, that’s where I used to go to church.”

Laugh if you want, I did the first time I heard it, but isn't that the sad truth?

The reason I bring this up is that I find it interesting the responses that I am getting from others regarding my upcoming move. Some have simply asked if I plan to continue coming to Grace Community Church, some have suggested local churches in the area I will be moving to, and some have just assumed I'm leaving Grace regardless. Don't get me wrong, with a larger family the thought has crossed my mind when it comes to being able to stay involved, yet it never crossed my mind without pain. If God decides He wants my family elsewhere I'll let Him direct that, much like He orchestrated this opportunity. However until then, I'm staying put.

I reflect back on when we walked into our current church for the first time; feeling Him calling us there. Since that time He has helped me forge friendships, brought me opportunities for spiritual and relational growth, honed my leadership skills, and created a passion for what Grace is doing on the very unique corner of Detroit, Grosse Pointe, and Harper Woods (as well as globally). Most importantly though, along with quenching the thirst of my Soul, He has begun to give me new eyes, ears, mind, and a heart. Rather than never seeing opportunities to act on, I now feel His pain when I fail to act and miss those precious opportunities.

Relationally it's been incredible. As an example, the last three times I walked into my church in the past week, I shook hands and gave hugs to at least 15-20 different people that I could comfortably pull aside and share my personal issues with. In return, I know I would have a confidential ear, heart, and advice if wanted. While a vast majority of those individuals I don't see much outside church or meetings, through the years we have still forged trusting relationships.

There is no way, unless I am called, that I want to leave that behind.

My prayer is for you; for the 3 or 300 that read this post. I pray you begin to or continue to see your church as your family as well. Invest in it, serve in it, give to it, pray for it, and love it. If your church doesn't have that culture, then maybe He placed you there to start that culture. Don't let the distractions from a human run institution disenchant you; you will never agree with everything or everyone that attends your church. However if my guess is correct, I'm not the only imperfect one out there. Make your local church part of your immediate family; and never leave it unless prayerfully released.

God loves you, and so do I
~Matthew

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Cravings and Vulnerability ...

Make sure to check me out on my YouTube channel. These next few months are going to be real busy and I may not be able to capture everything in writing all the time; thus I may do some vlogging when I can.


Cravings and Vulnerability @ http://www.youtube.com/user/mgasperoni

His,
~Matthew

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

When I Say Jump ...

I'm guessing most of us have heard the boot-camp-like phrase: When I say jump, you say how high! This reminded me of something that I read today; but first I was curious as to the origin of the phrase. My search ended quickly when I came across an answer (on the meaning of the phrase, not the origin) that caught my eye. This is simply a person who happened to answer the question for someone on a message board, but this is what they wrote:
It's just an old, old, expression, meaning someone has another person wrapped around their finger: You say "jump" and they are so eager to please you, they say, "how high?" It's just an old saying.
Interesting; I would say that is pretty accurate.

It reminded me of Levi (Matthew's) eagerness when he was called. I just kept reading these two verses over and over and just had to smile. It's a 2-verse call; how beautiful and simple. I hardly think the good doctor and fellow brother Luke (the author of this Gospel) was trying to keep it simple. So many other times we see records of conversation, resistance, banter, frustration, etc. But here? No. It's a 2-verse call.
After this he went out and saw a tax collector named Levi, sitting at the tax booth. And he said to him, “Follow me.” And leaving everything, he rose and followed him. (Luke 5:27-28 ESV)
There was something about His presence that was so obvious, so compelling, so magnetic, that just drew people in; immediately. I love how earlier in this chapter we hear the call of Peter. Here is this guy fishing, probably hearing Jesus teach on the beach, and when finding out that they caught nothing, Jesus offers them an end of the day tip. Willing (sort of), but expecting nothing, they listen to His tip that ends up paying off big. The people were "astonished" says the Text, as would I be. However Peter's response to this highlights that compelling nature that I spoke of earlier. Many seemed to respond in words unwritten "Wow, how did he do that?"; Peter responds quite differently.

But when Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus' knees, saying, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord" ... and Jesus said to Simon, "Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching men.” (Luke 5:8,10b ESV)
He calls Him Lord; moments earlier he saw Him as a master, a teacher. Now he is falling at His knees calling Him Lord.


Levi, sitting at his desk, sees Jesus walking by calling him, and he leaves his post, and everything behind, to follow; immediately.

2000 years later and He is still drawing people to Him. I pray that you don't keep your head down, and that you and Jesus meet eye to eye. If you do, and just lower the gates of your heart for a minute to take one honest look at Him, you will be penetrated with a love beyond description. This journey isn't easy, it's far from easy actually. Yet you will discover a lasting joy and peace that this world and all its stuff simply can't offer. I enjoy my TV, camera, music, food and games, but I crave Him!

"The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting; it has been found difficult and left untried." - GK Chesterton

Praying we all make each of His commands a 2-verse call.

~Matthew

Saturday, August 27, 2011

I don't want to hear it ...

I think we have all been the one who at times hears something or sees something that we intentionally tune out. Perhaps it's something like pretending you don't hear your wife calling you from a different floor as your watching that last play on the last drive with :08 left; Hypothetically of course. Then of course there are those things, that when confronted, out of our defensive nature, we deny, push away, or ignore them all together. Perhaps it's ignoring that one line item on your 1040 that you know you should fill out; but with all the other real problems in the world, you feel you have a right to win a few sly deals now and then. Or perhaps it's that last really important text you need to send when you promised to yourself that you are done texting and driving.

There are hundreds of examples; and while we should always try work on making the right decision for our own character development, and ultimately reflect Christ, there is one bit of news we don't want to ignore ...
And he said, ‘Then I beg you, father, to send him to my father's house—for I have five brothers—so that he may warn them, lest they also come into this place of torment.’
Jesus told this parable about two individuals (now dead to the world) separated by an chasm in eternity that couldn't be crossed. One side was with God (and Abraham happened to be there in this story for illustration), and the other side was in torment (Hell). The one in torment tried to ask someone on the other side to send word back to his living family members so that they could learn the truth and avoid the same fate.

But Abraham said, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them hear them.’
The responsibility is pushed back on those living; they know the truth. They may not want to hear it or believe it, but they have that choice.

And he said, ‘No, father Abraham, but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent.’
After all, an individual coming back to life to give a warning should surely be enough proof, right?

He said to him, ‘If they do not hear Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead.’”
... (Luke 16:27-31 ESV)

Spoken by Jesus Himself, who later raised a man name Lazarus, and later Himself; how little things change. I imagine some today are on the other side of that chasm, begging at least for their family to find out. When all along; we have the truth. I almost hear Jesus saying: "They weren't convinced when I rose from the dead either ..."

While I could take a perspective of "they're never going to change", that's not what I hear from God. The story is told so we can place ourself there, imagine ourself in that position. Let us not wait until we are on one side of that chasm or the other to make His Truth known.

~Matthew

Friday, August 26, 2011

Being Shaped



I read a passage today that reminded me about giving a thank you card to someone after we are given a gift at a party; it’s just proper, right? I recently blogged on how we should approach God with thanksgiving first, and then present our requests afterwards. However, it occurred to me that we thank Him first because He already gave us gifts without us even asking, so of course a thank you is in order. So how to thank Him?
Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and uphold me with a willing spirit. Then I will teach transgressors your ways, and sinners will return to you. Deliver me from bloodguiltiness, O God, O God of my salvation, and my tongue will sing aloud of your righteousness. O Lord, open my lips, and my mouth will declare your praise. (Psalm 51:12-15 ESV)
I am restored, so that ...
   I can teach others to return to Christ.
I am delivered, so that ...
   I can sing of His righteousness.
I am given lips that open, so that ...
   I can declare His praise.

These gifts should shape us. A gift of restoration should shape how we react and relate to others. A gift of deliverance should shape how joyful we are to be free. The gift of having a voice (figuratively and literally) should shape us so that we just want to praise to Him! Let us loosen our soul like wet grains of sand, and be shaped by our Creator all over again; today! Amen? Amen!


~Matthew

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Actively Passive?

The idea of loving others is not exactly a new idea to me. As a Christian this is not a suggested way of life, but rather a command. I'm not attempting to be prideful when I say that I have gotten better in learning not to judge others; as I have. However avoiding a behavior is far more passive than actively trying to live out a new behavior. Sitting in a room studying Scripture is important, as is not being judgemental; but walking out of the room and acting out the scripture is much more important. Likewise, actively showing love is far more important than just avoiding being judgemental.

Just recently I was pumping gas and I saw a man sweeping up the parking lot. He asked if he could pump my gas (never asked for money) and when I said I was fine, he went on to others. While I don't know for sure, I am guessing that he was someone out of work and looking to make a few dollars. Hands reaching out for an offering seems to be out on every street corner in my area these days. Yet after I dismissed him I began thinking I should have done something. Perhaps I could have offered him a dollar or two and let him pump my gas, or perhaps struck up some meaningful conversation. There had to be some grand plan He had in mind when our paths crossed, right?

As I pulled away and prayed about how to handle this situation the next time, the answer was far more simple than I was expecting. Talk! Just look at, smile, and talk to the person. While small talk may not be very profound in some of my relationships; smiling and striking up a conversation with a stranger about the weather could lead to laughs, love, and some great moments.

It occurred to me that this passive nature lurks in the dark and grey realm of apathy. It may not seem apathetic, but holding my tongue or taking captive every thought *(2 Cor 10:5) is only part of the equation. Besides, being passive, and not active in my faith, sounds an awful lot like being lukewarm:
"So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth." (Rev 3:16, ESV) 
Restraining a sinful behaviors is only truly valuable when I let His light shine through in exchange.

~Matthew
* "We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ" (2 Corinthians 10:5 ESV)

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Thank You First

Change is good right? Well I decided that I don't need to wait until I have the time to write a detailed entry every time; sometimes I miss out when God is speaking to me and I don't capture it because I am trying too hard or digging too deep. So while I will continue to post in my usual format, I will also be posting some quick thoughts as they occur to me during my time in the Word. I want to capture these thoughts, and who knows, maybe someone out there could use hearing them too.

A the leadership summit this year I was blessed to hear many speakers, including Steven Furtick. He reminded me that we don't say please, and thank you with God. We say thank you first, then we ask for requests. Coming across this passage it reminded me of just that; may I learn to start with thanking Him! I have so much to thank Him for, even on days that I struggle!
The one who offers thanksgiving as his sacrifice glorifies me; to one who orders his way rightly I will show the salvation of God!” (Psalm 50:23 ESV)

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Hook, line, and sinker ...


I think we're all familiar with the story of the good Samaritan. However the story starts out by someone trying to justify themselves before a teacher (who just so happens to be the Son of God) by asking what he needs to do in order to get into heaven.

Jesus starts out His reply (which is of course a question as usual!) and asked:

"What is written in the Law?"

And the man answers in summary about loving God and our neighbor, which then leads into the story of the Good Samaritan. However what I noticed today was not about the story at all, it was Jesus' question. You see the one I wrote above is not his complete reply; that's not the whole verse. Here is His full reply:
He said to him, “What is written in the Law? How do you read it?” (Luke 10:26 ESV)
"How do you read it?" Think about that.

Could He simply have been asking in two ways (redundantly) for him to read it aloud to Him? I don't think so. Even in English the tone seems pretty clear to me, but I decided to look up the Greek word out of interest. In Greek you get a pretty clear answer as well, the word used there (transliterated) is anaginōskō. It means to distinguish, recognize, acknowledge or know accurately.

It is a pretty good reminder to me as I read Scripture to ask myself the very question Christ asked the man; how do I read it? Do I know it? Do I recognize it? Do I acknowledge it? Again and again it's about transformation, not information. I could read multiple devotionals, jam through the Bible every year, throw a fish on my car (just for good measure that is), and still not recognize what God is trying to tell me through the Word. I need to anaginōskō His Word.

Let me read His word; and get it. Hook, like, and sinker ...
~Matthew

Friday, August 19, 2011

I'm cool! Yeah whatever, but anyway ...


As I get older I began to have the opportunity (I think you can call this an opportunity!) to see trends return. Not all of course, but some. They may be fashion trends, music trends, or even expressions; and it got me thinking as to why; why do we see this?

Why would my child be embarrassed at something I wear, say, or listen to one day, and have it suddenly be ok the next? Perhaps it's OK because others are doing it now; it's not must me. Perhaps it's simply because it's a new and fresh idea again. Now before you think I'm making this a child/adult thing I'm not; I follow that pattern too.

Most of what I speak of is not all that dramatic; in fact this thought process was triggered by a simple picture I saw from a friend regarding an old fashion trend. However I think it's speaks volumes culturally and spiritually; we want to fit in. As a Christian who is open about his faith (which is not always that popular) I seem to think I don't mind being different. However when I get dressed in the morning I don't hide the fact that I want to look good and acceptable by today's standards which are culturally driven. Am I driven by vanity? No. But I don't want to walk out the door dressed in clothes that don't match (by today's fashion world order). Though I am colorblind so sometimes that happens anyway!

Yet as always, the Bible isn't silent:
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)
So do I think dressing nice according to popular culture is evil; no, at least not intrinsically. So while I know this is overstated, it's just a surface level example to a deeper problem:

  • Swearing is fine as long as you don't offend someone, it's how we talk now.
  • Pornography is ok, all guys look at it occasionally.
  • Everyone gossips a little.
  • I don't want twins, and it's just called a pregnancy reduction; more people do it now too.
  • What exactly is the definition of "life" anyway ... 
  • Forgiveness is easier than asking permission, right?
  • Divorce isn't a last resort that pains God; it's just what you do when you don't get along anymore.
  • I could go on and on ...

My point is that so easily I can become "conformed" to the pattern of this world if I'm not looking. Patterns of change don't start with big movements; they are often individual steps that take us from one world to the next. Let us turn our steps back to Him, one step at a time, and start taking this world back for Christ.

... now if "big hair" comes back, I'm scared!

~Matthew

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Seeing Beyond the Reflection





While I don't walk around street preaching, I make no intention of hiding my faith either. If you know me personally, you know at the very least Whom I follow. Some would tell me I share my faith too little, some would call me a Jesus Freak; I find it rather fascinating the paradox that those two viewpoints can put me in. In either case my point is simple; I represent Christ. Because I do so publically, it also creates a deep sense of responsibility.
"You who boast in the law dishonor God by breaking the law. For, as it is written, “The name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you.” (Romans 2:23-24 ESV)
Perhaps we could start a study on this passage but I think we over complicate His Word way too often. What I see here is simply people preaching a platform that others see straight through and thus creating distaste for that very platform they preach. And since that platform is God, and those that misrepresent Him do Him a disservice, it's an issue.

The platform that I boast from can not come from religion and rules; preaching the very things I struggle with. While I think there can be some beauty in some of the religious traditions, my boasting needs to come from Christ and what He represents; Holiness, Love, Forgiveness, Truth, Salvation, Grace, Mercy, etc.

Jesus preached some hard and serious Truths, no question. However He also lived a life defined by relationship. May I continue to study His life and have the courage to live more like Him every day; with my friends, or those who oppose me. It is that way of life that I want to reflect, not a bunch of rules. When someone looks beyond my reflection, may they not see a man and his rules, but rather a stumbling and honest man reaching out for His steady and Holy God.

~Matthew


Daddy, how can I tell you're a Christian?



Or better yet, I won't wait for the question to come to me; I'll ask them myself.

What would they say? One thing is for sure, I think I would get an honest answer. I plan to ask this question tomorrow. I bet my kids will be throwing down some theology, but I wonder if their response will make me feel more like a follower of Christ, or a pharisee. Don't get me wrong, this isn't a train of guilt; it's just a good reality check. I want to make sure they not only know the words, but see them being acted out ... in me.
"You shall teach them to your children, talking of them when you are sitting in your house, and when you are walking by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise." (Deuteronomy 11:19 ESV)
When all is said and done, with mistakes and bumps in the road, if my children see a life lived for Christ, and not just a life that spoke of Christ, then I did my job. It's not my job to prepare them for Harvard, but it is my job to prepare them for Heaven.

While I am a busy dad of 4, I still feel His tugging on my heart for something amazing; even more than what He's led me to thus far. I don't know what it is (yet), but I know I'm almost done with a few things He wants me to prepare first. It's so exciting! I made a promise that these next 5 years are going to be amazing, and I know they are!

Father, may my children see Christ not just in words, but in love and action through your servant. You promise such an amazing joyful life, of which I am just beginning to taste, and it is good! Thank you! Please continue to call my children as I know you have wonderful plans for them! 

May these next 5 years bring Christ to life in this family like never before! Not out of rules, and rituals; but out of servitude, joy, and excitement (even in tribulation).

Building,
~Matthew

Friday, August 12, 2011

That first slice ...


Did you ever want that first slice of the pie?

You see, I put some effort into this pie I made a while back; blueberry if you must know! I made the crust from scratch (as if there is another way) and put together the wild blueberry filling. Though I love to cook and have been blessed with my ability in a kitchen, I am no baker, and there is a big difference! Regardless, when this pie was cooked and came out of the oven, it looked quite good! So good in fact that my next picture of it (yes, I like to take pictures of my food) was a half-eaten one!

Switching gears slightly, perhaps you can ask yourself the question I began to ask myself again these last few days. Do you offer God your first or best slice of your time, or do you just let Him eat the scraps that are left at the end of the day?

I have found that with the new baby my personal time has diminished a bit; not surprisingly. I've tried to squeeze in my limited free time with TV and other senseless garbage that never satisfies. In fact, worse yet, that senseless garbage only leaves me longing for more time! Then, at the end of the day, I see if I can fit Him in somewhere.

Realize one important thing however; offering God your first slice of time will not just leave you feeling satisfied, but it will bless you in ways you need most. It may start as an act of obedience, but it ends with blessings far greater than you expect.

Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. (Matthew 11:28 ESV)

Oh how true that is!  I was recently asked about how the concept of rest resonated with me these days, and it's been a difficult question to answer. However it's only been difficult as I've been shoving my mouth full of His pie all by myself, and not sitting at His table and eating together.

I think sleep deprived nights will still be here for a while with the new baby, but I know rest is going to return. Starting tomorrow, He will be getting my first and best slice again.

Resting,
~Matthew

Friday, August 5, 2011

I said yes!


As my middle daughter prepares to be a flower girl in a friend’s upcoming wedding, it gets me thinking about marriage all over again. I fully realize that to some that word stirs up much different emotion than it does in me. Yet for those individuals, I’m not talking about the painful journey of what it became, but rather the joyous journey of what it should have been.

Reading through Hosea with my wife, it occurred to me how God has always been calling His bride; us. As Israel (His bride) continued to prostitute itself to Baal through sacrificing human life, cult prostitution, divided devotion, and other garbage, God continued to beckon her. What I found touching when reading is that while God certainly uses the idea of us being His people, and Him being our God; He reminded us in Hosea that He’s not just our God, He’s our husband.
“And in that day, declares the Lord, you will call me ‘My Husband,’ and no longer will you call me ‘My Baal.’” (Hosea 2:16 ESV)
God isn’t saying here that no longer will you worship Baal, but you will worship me. This wording and comparison here isn’t a God vs. god comparison; it’s a god vs. Husband comparison he expresses; yet again we see relationship.

God has always been, and continues to be, in search of His bride.

The question that I asked myself after this was simple; am I giving God the attention, love, and devotion that a bride would give her husband?

Please put jesting aside regarding the obvious retort to this, but do I look at God with the same level of love, devotion, and attention that I give my wife? When I remember the feeling of taking my wife’s hand for the first time, does it remind me of how I hold His hand? While my relationship with my wife has matured, it has only gotten deeper. Can I say the same for my relationship with my God?

I know it’s not manly to think of myself as a bride, but this isn’t a male female issue, it’s a relationship issue. The God of the universe wants to be in union with me. When I asked my wife to marry me, she didn’t come with a dowry filled with worldly riches, but she did come with a heart that loved me back. This marriage however does come with a dowry; it’s filled with things like eternal salvation and a chance to live a life full of lasting joy and impact.

The proposal was made. What did I say?

Yes!

You?

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Jesus, and the Landing on the Moon

I believe in Jesus! Well, of course I do, who doesn't? That's a bit of an odd statement as He was a historical figure regardless of your belief system. Though I suppose if you don't think we landed on the moon, than you may think that Jesus didn't exist either!

However while we may differ on doctrine, as Christians it means (or should mean) that we believe in who He was and said to be; the son of the one true living God.

Yet at times I think it would be nice if Jesus decided to reveal Himself to me (and the world) visually in ways tangible to our simple human understanding. I think it would be great for Him to come down, teach a bit, prove His power, and then head back to the throne. I think that if He really wanted us all to put our trust in Him that He would come down here, walk with us a bit, and just ... well ... prove it! After all, He knows how we were created and knows how we learn and understand. Seeing is believing right? So why not just reveal Himself in a clear simple way!

I mean imagine if He came here (in human form of course), fulfilled some of those prophesies, taught us, and better yet performed some miracles right in front of our human eyes! If we saw that then there would be no doubt. In fact, we would probably joyfully find ourselves persecuted and even die for Him because He would be "that real" to us! Seriously ponder that; imagine if God revealed Himself to us like that.

Perhaps even give Him a name that would be forever remembered ... like ... Jesus.
If I am not doing the works of my Father, then do not believe me; but if I do them, even though you do not believe me, believe the works, that you may know and understand that the Father is in me and I am in the Father.” (John 10:37-38 ESV)
God most certainly understands our minds and the need for humanistic proof; and He gave us this proof. Just because it wasn't our generation that was around when He walked this earth in human form and performed all these miracles doesn't make it any less real. He knew what we needed to believe, and He gave it to us.

We are a future generation now:
Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” (John 20:29 ESV)
He knew what we needed, and He gave it to us. Got belief?

Proof? Proof!

His,
~Matt

Drawing Attention

Did you ever start doing something that seemed to draw the attention of others?



I recall various times pulling out my telescope while camping only to have it followed by visitors to my campsite and questions of interest! It's fun to find out that what you enjoy also draws in the attention of others. You get an opportunity to share something that is important to you while at the same time meet someone new. At times some even walked away from my campsite with a seed of interest in a subject that they didn't seem to have before they walked up.

However, I also recall washing my truck in my driveway on a beautiful fall day on time. I was listening to music only to have a frustrated neighbor shout for me to turn down the volume! I didn't recall it being very loud, and this was about noon so I don't think I was out of line; but regardless it certainly drew her attention! It created friction between us as the moment was a bit awkward.

Attention goes both ways.

When it comes to my walk with Christ, I often wonder the same. Does my walk interest people? Does it draw their attention to want to ask questions? Does the way I live make others curious about my faith?

Or perhaps, is it like an obtrusive noise to them? Does it bother them? Make them uncomfortable?

Don't mistake me, Truth should never be compromised or hidden; we don't have the Light so that we can hide It. Truth will always rub some the wrong way. After all, Jesus offended; yet more often He offended those that claimed to know God and walked a very different way. For those that had a need, for those that were curious, for those that had questions; He had the answers and lovingly shared them.

Thus says the LORD of hosts: In those days ten men from the nations of every tongue shall take hold of the robe of a Jew, saying, ‘Let us go with you, for we have heard that God is with you.’” (Zechariah 8:23 ESV)

This passage reminds me of that interest; those that saw something in the living God, and wanted to follow those that knew Him.

While there will always be others that are repelled from His Truth, I simply need to reflect all I can of His love, forgiveness, mercy, servitude, etc. I think authenticity is easily seen, and the converse is true as well. I don't go camping and set up my telescope to draw attention, I do it because it's what I do, it's what I enjoy, and it's part of who I am.

If I simply walk His path, daily; I will be blessed with the opportunity from those that ask questions to share my greatest passion of all, and that is Christ Jesus.

May I continue to be as open and authentic about my love for Christ as I am about my hobbies.

His,
~Matt

Monday, July 18, 2011

Beautification Via Flame

The theme of God calling us His people, and in turn us calling Him our God is something often seen in Scripture. Likewise, the promise of us calling upon Him and His name, and Him answering that call is also seen often. However in Zechariah we see this theme coupled with another theme, and one that is not so comfortable:
“And I will put this third into the fire,
and refine them as one refines silver,
and test them as gold is tested.
They will call upon my name,
and I will answer them.
I will say, ‘They are my people’;
and they will say, ‘The LORD is my God.’”
(Zechariah 13:7-9 ESV)
While the process of going through fire can obviously cause pain (I don't really know how it wouldn't cause pain), His goal is not to give us this pain; His goal is to refine us. When I dicipline my children, I know it hurts them; yet my wish is to refine them, help them grow, and learn to understand right from wrong. The pain that goes along with that often hurts me I'm sure more than it hurts them.

This passage, especially the preceding verses is prophetic in a messianic sense, yet it still speaks of that process of refinement, the same type of refinement (testing) that we see in 1 Peter:
"so that the tested genuineness of your faith more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ." (1 Peter 1:7 ESV)
For me, these passages are a call and a reminder about where my path is heading if I wish to follow Him. I have and will continue to have refining fires in my life as He sees fit. Though too often I think of the easy (yet very painful answers) when it comes to what fires and trials look like in my life; like loosing a family member, my health, my job, etc. Yes these can be trials, and He may use them to refine me, but I don't think it is those events He uses most often, but rather events of submission.

Walking away from my job to choose a path that He is calling me to can be a fire that when tested at a distance seems a little too hot to jump into. Giving a truly sacrificial gift to someone you are being called to give it to when you are struggling yourself can be quite the fire as well. Showing His character of love and peace to a family member, friend, or coworker who continues to persecute you can be a fire that pushes you to the edge.

Yet as a follower, we are told not to fear:
"for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control." (2 Timothy 1:7 ESV)
Let us not forget that His fires don't leave us with scars, but leave us transformed. They don't disfigure us, they make us more beautiful!

Father, may you grant me the courage to not fear Your fires. While difficult times will certainly come upon me, and painful events will hurt me, Your fires don't leave me burned, but leave me transformed. Father, whatever it takes, make me like Jesus.

Yours,
~Matthew

Friday, July 15, 2011

Coffee Beans and Jesus

Does coffee wake you up? Get you going? Revive you? For years I loved the smell of coffee, but couldn't stand the stuff when it hit my lips. I went my entire life disliking the popular beverage, only to find myself a few months ago acquire a taste for that rich bean like I never thought I would! It's a rather nonsensical explanation on my part that led me to start drinking it (and yes, I prefer it black!) but aside from the process of change for me, it's something I really enjoy now. Something that in the morning, especially with a newborn in the house, gets me out of the fog and tastes pretty delicious in the process!

It occurred to me this evening that Jesus is quite the pick-me-up too. You see a few minutes ago, after finally getting my two middle children down for bed, I plopped on the couch to put in my latest red envelope arrival (that would be a Netflix movie for you non-reds!). Well, over the past few weeks with being so busy with the new baby, my devotion and meditation time has suffered a bit; frankly any me time has been hard to come by as you can imagine. I thought about taking that time to pray, read, or journal, but I really wanted to watch that movie! After all, I only have an hour or two before I need to crash for bed.

So I decided that I'd at least take a few minutes to pray before I started the movie. After all, if I throw God a few minutes first then I wouldn't feel guilty about watching that movie right? :)

That's when it hit me all over again; the difference between a religion and a relationship. Some roll their eyes when I say those words, but until you experience it, you just won't understand. All these past months and years building our relationship has laid a foundation that is beyond words to describe. In the quiet of my basement, I closed my eyes, opened my heart to Him, and begin to talk and ask Him in. So quickly He filled up my heart with joy, peace, and excitement beyond anything that a coffee bean can do to me in the morning. Suddenly that movie was out of my mind and the desire to simply sit, talk, relax, and reflect with Him was consuming me.

I'll have another chance to watch that movie, but for now, I'm going to spend some more time with Him. Know that I will be praying for many of you by name, and anyone who happens to read these words over the next hour. I pray you come to know Him more through your own journey. Pray, talk to Him, build that relationship; He is the way ...
"Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer." (Romans 12:12 ESV)
His,
~Matthew

Saturday, June 18, 2011

4 Days and Counting ...

I think to be a good hip Christian who blogs you should write an entry on Father's day about how this day is a day to remember your eternal and Holy Father in heaven. However, to be authentic is a bit more important than to be hip, so let me share with you what I'm mostly thinking about lately and especially on this Father's day:

I'm going to be a dad again! =)

Wednesday is our [my wife's] scheduled C (that's hip for scheduled cesarean-section surgery); hey, I didn't say you couldn't be hip. Anyway, Benjamin Levi or Rebekah Colleene will be making this a family of six very soon! To say I'm excited is an understatement.
"Behold, children are a heritage from the LORD,
the fruit of the womb a reward.
Like arrows in the hand of a warrior
are the children of one's youth.
Blessed is the man
who fills his quiver with them!
He shall not be put to shame
when he speaks with his enemies in the gate."
(Psalm 127:3-5 ESV)
I can't help but imagine wrapping my arms around my four children with pride and pledging to Christ that I will do my best to represent Him to my children (with my life, not just my instruction). Imagining how together we can build an army of love to conquer the gates of hell by showering the world with His Truth.

Oh, my kids see me mess up, get angry, and show my many faults; but I hope I model for them enough forgiveness, authenticity, and an ear to listen in return.

While I do remember that tomorrow is never promised, and my very breath I just took is a gift, I still can't help but be filled with excitement as this day is quickly approaching. God willing, I am so excited to dedicate this child in front of my church family, feeling that little hand squeeze my finger, see their eyes meet mine for the very first time, and simply watch this miracle of life grow.

So while this blog entry may not be focused on my eternal Father, I still recognize who's child my wife is really carrying, and that is His. If I continue to be just as excited after my fourth time around, I know He continues to welcome with joy each of His countless children in the world as well.

Happy Father's Day Abba!

Running With Confidence!

These past couple weeks for various reasons has given me some time to reflect on my journey. While I see many struggles through this process, I also see so many of His blessings in my life. Additionally, I look back on the man or boy that I was, and see many voids that have been filled by Him. I am so very eagerly looking forward to this next stage of my journey. Obedience can be scary and exhilarating all at the same time. However this passage was a sobering reminder to me of the stumbling blocks that my adversary can put in the way.

"You were running well. Who hindered you from obeying the truth? This persuasion is not from him who calls you. A little leaven leavens the whole lump." - (Galatians 5:7-9 ESV)

Don't mistake me, my confidence is not conceit as it lies with Him not myself, but there is a sense of confidence (as there should be) with His presence in my life. Yet it's that confidence if not rested on Him where I think I risk falling away. I don't mean to discuss the Theological point of losing your salvation or not, but clearly the enemy (disguised in many ways) can pull us off His path.

May I learn to put on His armor daily, not mistaking who I am in a battle with. Yet let me never forget Who fights for me on my behalf if I submit and let Him take the front line.

In Christ I am praying for you now, many by name; may you have an amazing weekend in Him. Enjoy the weather, celebrate your fathers, laugh with your children, kiss your spouse, and smile and experience His amazing peace and joy!

Ride joyfully and confidently on His path ... but stand guard.

God loves you and so do I,
~Matthew

Thursday, June 16, 2011

I'm scared ...



“Only, they asked us to remember the poor, the very thing I was eager to do.” (Galatians 2:10 ESV) 
I live in a city caught between two worlds, at least financially; Grosse Pointe, and Detroit. I have to admit that this placement has become a struggle for me, one in which I never expected. You see we moved to Harper Woods for a few reasons; it fit our price range, it was diverse, and frankly it was nice to live in a familiar area surrounded by family. However, after the housing crash, and homes in my area began to sell for $25,000, the impact to my city took a turn that I was not anticipating.

I’m not looking to judge, but I ask a rhetorical question; what situation causes a family to move into a home that is $25,000? I’m simply thinking (yes, this is my opinion) that while there most certainly are exceptions, that a family moving into a low cost home is possibly financially stressed. Perhaps out of work, disabled, single income with multiple low paying jobs just trying to provide for their family, etc. I understand this can be very subjective and open to interpretation, however what is not subjective after this change is that I went from a school playground across the street where I felt comfortable sending my kids to play, to one in which I feel uncomfortable. From issues of horrific language, inappropriate relational activity, aggression and fighting, disrespectful behavior, destruction of property, and even issues like public urination when my kids are playing. This is hardly subjective.

I drive one direction to shop at Trader Joe’s in Grosse Pointe and shop with my kids smiling, polite workers, and a community that smiles says hello.

I drive another direction to shop at my grocery store at the end of my street and I hear words or anger, frustration, pain, disappointment, verbal abuse, and faces that are downcast and keep to themselves.

Before someone wants to stop and correct me about a negative experience they had a Trader Joe’s or tell me about how nice the help was at our local grocery store, I know there are exceptions. In fact, at Vegas Foods recently (a local grocery store that I struggle to shop in now) I had a beautiful chat with the cashier about love, Christ, the importance of Scripture, and our children to share the light in this community.

I won’t lie, I want to leave. I want pack up, continue to pay my mortgage on a home that is worth a third of what we owe, and rent, or buy somewhere else. I begin to judge and think, if they don’t care about their community, then why should I care? Yes I then remember the recent words of my sister in Christ Jessica at church last week and her experience showing Christ in some troubled areas of Detroit. “There are certainly people who care.” she assures, “They’ve just given up hope, have little faith, and feel forgotten.” 
“Only, they asked us to remember the poor, the very thing I was eager to do.” (Galatians 2:10 ESV)
Remember the poor. I don't think you need to be a bible scholar to know that we are commanded many times to remember the poor. But what does that look like for me though? God placed me here, and His Spirit is scorching the flesh of my heart, and I know that I was not placed here to become financially stable so I could move soon. Yet what does His calling look like for me?

This is where you come in. I’m asking for you to pray for me.

I need to discern what His will is for placing me here. I’m not going to hide from obvious facts and cloud them with exceptions and political rhetoric; there is darkness around me. Communities and individuals that hide behind city pride and let the darkness consume them are creating deeper damage, and are not resolving anything. Love for your community requires honesty, and effort to make a change. I know this, yet I struggle with the feeling that I want to simply run away. I know I may not be here (in this neighborhood) for the rest of my life; but I need to let Him make an impact through me while I am here.
“No one after lighting a lamp covers it with a jar or puts it under a bed, but puts it on a stand, so that those who enter may see the light.” (Luke 8:16 ESV) 
… a follower of Christ does not let His Spirit be lit within Him and run from darkness and take that light away from the darkness that so desperately needs it.

He has something amazing planned for me, I know it, but I’m scared of my flesh pulling me away from His calling; pray for me.

~Matthew

Sunday, June 12, 2011

"But when He" moments


Moments come and go; much like the perfect sunset. If you're there at the right time, right place, you can experience something spectacular.

As I was reading through the first chapter of Galatians last night, I got to the part where Paul was explaining his calling to the people. How as a youth he excelled in his faith, hung tight to his Jewish teachings, and persecuted the church of God. Then in verse 15, at least the way ESV translates it, he starts by saying ...

"But when He ..." (speaking of God)

I'm not after translation variants, or word studies here. In fact, it really doesn't even matter how your translation starts this verse. My point is much more high level than that; in fact, it's a question.

I started asking myself: How many 'but when He' moments have I had in my life?

How many times was I about to make a decision when He stepped in?
How many times was I about to open my mouth when He spoke to me first?
How many times was I about to have that thought when He interceded?

The questions aren't complete until I make my choice. He can intercede, He can speak, He can step in, but ultimately I need to choose His path, not mine.

I found that if I looked, He was everywhere. In almost all decisions I can recall, He was present, guiding me, loving me, speaking to me. I have 'but when He' moments all the time. Perhaps another way of looking at this would be His perspective towards me.

"When Matthew heard me, he ... "

I what? Obeyed? Ignored?

May I continue to recognize His whispers in my life and have the courage to obey, so that I can experience something spectacular!

Learning Obedience,
~Matthew

My Journey on His Path ...


I was asked to share at church this morning a bit about my story, in actuality His story, over the past few years of my journey with Him. When I began to reflect back, a lot indeed has changed. However most significantly has been the journey from the God of my head, to the God of my heart. Taking what I know about Him intellectually, and letting Him penetrate my heart.

For me, this transformation began with my acceptance of His Word, The Bible, for what it is; Truth. It was then that Romans 12:2, that transformation by the renewal of my mind, began. While that journey to accept His Word as Truth is a multi-hour conversation over coffee just to get started, what I can easily say is that you don't have to drop your intellect at the foot of the door before grabbing on to His word as truth. In fact, it's His Word that completes knowledge. But that's for an other entry ...

Once I began to accept Him at His Word, one thing that has, and continues to resonate strongly with me is how Holy He is. While I will never know the full extent of His holiness until meet Christ face to face, what I do know is that He is indeed Holy. He is worthy of my complete devotion and all my worship.

I remember reading R.C. Sproul one time about how God says in Scripture that He is Love, Mercy, and Justice. Yet He doesn't refer to Himself in Scripture as Love Love Love, or Mercy Mercy Mercy, or Justice Justice Justice (that repetitive pattern we sometimes see for emphasis). However He does say He is Holy, Holy, Holy.

I draw breath because He lets me.

Immediately then it's not about me anymore, it's about Him. I see that I can enjoy my blessings, but now I'm a steward of those things; because they're not mine, they're His.

It's these two things; accepting the Bible as Truth, and recognizing His holiness; that pushed me into my journey that I am at now, and that is learning a life of obedience. (note 'learning', not mastered!)

About a year ago I began to pray about ways to serve my church aside from just financial support through tithing. He opened that door as I was asked to serve on the core team to the Men's Ministry at my church. He knew that I was lacking in one fundamental area of my faith, and that was discipleship. You see while the Men's Ministry does indeed have 'events', it's not an event driven ministry. It's about creating relationships with the men at Grace Community Church. We all should have a Paul pouring into us, and we should all have a Timothy to pour into. As men we want to be tough, and want to do life on our own, but that's not how we were created. Proverbs 27:17 says that as iron sharpens iron, one man sharpens another; that's how we were created; to do this life together.

I began to grow even more as he pushed me into other areas outside my comfort zone with more 'everyday' acts of obedience. Praying over someone for the first time. Engaging in a conversation with a man at the church that I didn't know. Seeing an opportunity to share Christ with someone at work for the first time. Looking at my kids in the eyes and telling them I'm sorry when I misrepresent Jesus Christ in my role as a father. Pulling myself away to pray when I think I'm too busy. Not being embarrassed to pray in public. The list could go on, and these things are not natural for me. However they do get easier, the blessings continue to pour out, and they allow me to be used for His Kingdom.

Another way I began to journey was when I began to journal. I quickly realized that pen and paper weren't for me and I started this blog here on Blogspot. I love writing, and it's a great way for me to journal and share at the same time. I don't blog to preach, I blog to share. Much of what I write about are my own struggles. Let me say that there is not a greater feeling on earth than being used by Him. When I get an email, or someone talks to me and says how something I wrote touched them, it's quite powerful. Perhaps they struggled with something similar, or perhaps they were praying and something God put on my heart related to their journey and spoke to them as well, but whatever the case I give Him all the honor and glory. It's an incredible thing to be used personally by the God who spoke the universe into existence! If that isn't humbling I don't know what is!

So where do I go from here? I don't know, but I know He does. I just pray that I have the courage to obey when I hear Him calling next. I sometimes think about my qualifications and strengths when imagining where He wants me to go next on my journey. However I often remember a quote that stops all that pondering and anticipation:

"God doesn't call the qualified, He qualifies the called."

May we all be open to His call for our lives. We serve an amazing, and Holy Holy Holy, God.

God loves you, and so do I
~Matthew

Friday, June 3, 2011

Alone


While I don't often like the feeling of being alone and separated away from my family, there are times when I enjoy some quiet time; as when I go hunting or take a day sabbatical to be alone with Him. Sitting amidst His creation for a time of rest and reflection is wonderful, but in general I love to be around people, primarily my family. However there are times when the feeling of being alone was not welcoming at all.

I remember a time a couple years back when I went to the UK on a business trip for a week. I was there previously for another business trip with a group, but this time it was just me. I travelled alone, had a hotel alone, and went to and from the office outside London alone. To some this may seem like a wonderful trip, and I initially thought it was going to be for me as well, but it was miserable!

The hotel was wonderful; I stayed at the Tower Hotel in downtown London right across from the Tower Bridge seen in the picture. The food was wonderful, the service was wonderful, and even the weather was wonderful! I however missed my wife and kids terribly. I could probably explain several reasons why I felt this way, but my point is simply that when I think of a time when I really felt alone, it was then.

So today on the way to work, as I was listening to a talk from The Pineapple Stories, and something was said that really showed me other ways I am alone; or perhaps other ways that I choose to be alone.
"When you tell people everything is fine, you're facing your problems alone. And Christianity was never made to face alone." - Otto Koning
It reminded me of how true this statement is, as in Scripture we read about Jethro (Moses' father-in-law) speaking wisdom seeing him so overburdened with work.
You and the people with you will certainly wear yourselves out, for the thing is too heavy for you. You are not able to do it alone. (Exodus 18:18 ESV)
I sadly fall into this category all too often, and by choice. Perhaps it's an aspect of control in me that doesn't want to let go; so at work, home, or sometimes socially I refuse to let others in as those words "I'm fine, how are you?" leave my lips all too often. My life certainly is filled with blessings, but when I'm struggling I still seem to fight the urge to internalize; a vicious cancer of the soul that certainly can cause physical harm as well. Culture tells me to be tough, and deal with my struggles. Culture tells me that asking for help is a sign of weakness. However I can't serve both God and popular culture; they are not inclusive of eachother. Besides, He most certainly did not plan for us to burden ourselves, in fact it's quite the opposite.

"I'll be my brother's keeper, so the whole world will know that we're not alone" - I want to make those lyrics from one of my favorite songs a reality. However it starts with my authenticity and transparency to those close to me, as it's that level of authenticity that draws us closer together.

Join me ...

Father, may you continue to teach me that while being physically alone can be a struggle for me, isolating myself from others who can lift me up in prayer, support me, and show Your love through them, is not a solution. May I learn to embrace my struggles by reaching out to those you guide me to, and let Your healing hand be used in others as You use me for them. May I learn to submit to you daily, so that You can restore me daily in return.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Abba's Day!


Do you like fairs/carnivals? The smell of sweet or fried food in the air, the sun baking down on you, face paintings, games, excited crowds of people, and a host of rides that seem to take up almost every square foot of that park or church parking lot? Well, I don't! However that doesn't mean I don't enjoy myself. After all, while I may not be the carnival type, I know my kids are; and it's so much fun to watch the joy on their faces. I love how putting aside my own agenda for my kids' can bring me so much joy.

We see that same type of self-sacrifice with other occasions too; birthdays, mother's day, father's day. We put aside our own interests for the sake of the one(s) whom we are celebrating.

Imagine having an Abba's day; a Father's day for our Lord. We talk about doing this all the time as Christians, but have I ever really done it? After all, there are some mother's days that I feel were less "successful" than others. Perhaps some years I really found a way to lay aside my own agenda for my wife, or mother. Maybe some years with the business of it all I lost the focus of who I was really celebrating. Yet there are those days where you can probably recall making it all about them and how great it really felt.

Thus I go back to my original point: Imagine doing that for God; taking a day to truly celebrate Him. Waking up, and completely laying aside your own agenda and letting the Spirit guide you in prayer or through the Word, or simply in Spirit to whomever He wants you to talk to that day; whatever He wants you to do that day; wherever He wants you to go that day?

Oh, I've had times where I felt I listened to the Spirit and was blessed by what He led me to. I've had days were I was so deeply into His Word that He impacted me significantly. I've had days were I think I prayed more than I spoke. I've had days where I woke up and the first words that left my lips were Thank You Lord. Yet I don't think I've consciously had a day that from morning until night I've put aside my own agenda for His. There have been plenty of times where I prayerfully sought His guidance and presence on my own agenda, but I never truly put down my clipboard with my list of things to do and said: "Not today ... it's Your list today!".

He's blessed me with a wife, children, job, house, and other responsibilities, and I know He recognizes that. However I know I can and should put down my agenda once in a while (and certainly more than once a year) to truly celebrate Abba's Day. If my children's agenda can bring me joy when I lay down mine for theirs, how much more joy will His agenda bring to me! :)

Looking forward to telling you about my first Abba's Day soon! =)

His,
~Matthew

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Distractions!


Many things enter my life as distractions! Yummy chocolate chip pound cake for instance is certainly one! Enjoying the first piece isn't the problem, it's the slices after that which really try to grab my attention! There are other distractions though lately which have been bothering me, in particular the non-events of this weekend promoted by some to be The Rapture. I know you are probably sick of hearing about that as am I, but this being my journal I thought it important to get a few thoughts down before they began to slip my mind.

Let me first start off by saying a few things. I seem to hear a little too often in Christian circles blaming the enemy [Christian speak for Satan] for everything bad that happens, even to the point of daily routine frustrations. Can he be? Sure. Is he always? I doubt it.

Yet I do not underestimate his power nor his involvement in my life. I tend to believe that anything that leads us away from the Cross of Christ is demonic in nature. It could be something cultural, but also often it's religious and legalistic behaviors or rules that pull us away from His Grace. Do I think that the prosperity gospel (a teaching that tells us that if we are truly following Christ that we will be healed, rich, and powerful) is demonic in nature? Absolutely. Is the fact that I spilled my coffee over my pants on the way to work that caused me to be late the scheme of the enemy? Possibly, but I doubt it.

So when I first began hearing the views of Family Radio about the upcoming Rapture it simply annoyed me. I saw them as a very misguided group of people with very poor theology preaching from a twisted view of Scripture. As we got closer, it became a joke to me, often joking with friends which one of us will be around after 6PM on Saturday. Now however, after the time has come and gone, I'm a little bothered by it, and here's why.

I could be wrong, and I pray I am, but I have a bad feeling that the significance of the Rapture (The Rapture) has been diluted a little among some believers. I simply think that all this joking and teasing those extremely misguided views has left some with a layed back attitude to the real event coming. I don't mean to imply that some of my brothers and sisters in Christ don't think that Judgement Day is a big deal, I just think that all this joking possibly took the edge off the event.

Do I think that taking even a slight edge off a believer's feeling about the Rapture is the work of the enemy? Sounds like it to me ...


Father, I pray that you continue to stir in Your children a sense of conviction about our ultimate fate. While some groups have and will continue to try and predict your Son's return, may we learn to ignore their views without losing sight of what that Day means for all of humanity. May we not reach out to those lost by using fear and control, but rather love and compassion. Continue to protect Your children from the attacks of the enemy, no matter how subtle, so that we can remain in union with You and do Your Will, always preparing for your return.


But know this, that if the master of the house had known in what part of the night the thief was coming, he would have stayed awake and would not have let his house be broken into. (Matthew 24:43 ESV)


Preparing,
~Matthew

Thursday, April 21, 2011

What does it take to feel desperate?


Standing on the glass floor at the CN Tower in Toronto certainly gave me a feeling of desperation! Fearfully standing with a camera pointing down, I was reassuring myself that the floor must have been tested countless ways; at least I had hoped so! Because the material I was standing on was transparent, and I could see where in fact I was already moments before, gave me a very clear picture of the reality (height) I was at!

My situation didn’t change, just my view of it.

The title of this entry is a continuation of my thoughts from a response to my friends blog entry about our prayer lives, and the question that was asked, what does it really take to become more involved in prayer with our heavenly Father?

My answer to the question is simply one word: Desperation

I pray at times a very fearful prayer; whatever it takes Father, make me like Jesus. If it is in God’s will to remove from me my family, my house, my job, my health, or other things I often cling to in this world so that He can make me like Jesus, so be it. I certainly do not wish it, and dwelling on it can fill me with fear, but He knows what is best for me; He knows what I need.

However, I should not have to lose those things precious to me to become desperate for God. While it certainly may seem more difficult to feel desperate for God in a situation when I have my physical and emotional needs met, it’s something I must seek. Maslow may feel that self-actualization is at the top of our need pyramid, however I feel that self-denial and complete surrender to Christ is where the pyramid needs to lead. Now one may say it’s a game of semantics and that my self-actualization actually comes from complete surrender to Christ, as that is what completes me. However I still need to retain the fundamental truth that culture, society, and “human nature” are not my guides; I don’t wish to fit a mold, or certainly not one that society creates.

I should expect persecution, but I should not have to be persecuted before I become desperate.
I should expect to lose many things in this world for His sake, but I should not have to lose them to become desperate.
I should expect fiery trials to come my way, but I should not have to experience them before I become desperate.

I can have much, but still be desperate for Christ.
I can have little, but still be desperate for Christ. 
I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me. (Philippians 4:12-13 ESV) 
A verse that is often taken out of context; Paul has learned that in whatever situation (having much, or having little) that the secret of facing those things is Christ. Christ doesn’t promise prosperity for following Him, in fact He promises quite the opposite. However there are likely to be times of plenty, along with times of need, and in both of those cases the secret to success is Christ Himself.

Father, teach me that while You are in control, and You give and take away, that I need not wait to lose something to feel desperate for You. Call me Father, and let me continue to feel a longing for You, a longing that can only be satisfied by communion with You. We are but pilgrims in this world; children of the Most High called to be Your hands and feet to reach out to a world in need. May we feel the longing to be home, yet meanwhile joyfully and eagerly use our time here to spread Your message of love! Draw me near to You father … I want to be desperate for You!

~Matthew

Link to my friend's blog, The War Room: What does it take? http://hispathdaily.blogspot.com/2011/04/what-does-it-take-to-feel-desperate.html

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Opening that gift ...

As I read through Acts 10, I observed something in particular that I wanted to reflect on. First, you have an introduction to a man named Cornelius:
At Caesarea there was a man named Cornelius, a centurion of what was known as the Italian Cohort, a devout man who feared God with all his household, gave alms generously to the people, and prayed continually to God. (Acts 10:1-2 ESV)
A rather positive introduction for certain. Simply put, a man of great faith. Not only does this man of great faith receive a solid Biblical introduction, but he also hears from a messenger of the Lord that he has been noticed:
And [the Angel] said to him, “Your prayers and your alms have ascended as a memorial before God. (Acts 10:4b ESV)
Again, not too shabby! The angel not only told him that his prayers (and alms) were received, but that they ascended "as a memorial" before the living God of the universe Himself! Clearly some type of recognition will come upon him right? Absolutely, and later in the chapter this great recognition, this amazing gift, is revealed to him:
While Peter was still saying these things, the Holy Spirit fell on all who heard the word. (Acts 10:44 ESV)

What a gift! Is there another gift greater than God Himself dwelling in us? I think not! However I think I all too often forget His majesty, and as I read Francis Chan's book, Forgotten God, I am reminded of how much I take His Spirit for granted, or worse yet, forget His presence in my daily life.
What does the Spirit do? His works are ineffable in majesty, and innumerable in quantity. How can we even ponder what extends beyond the ages? What did He do before creation began? How great are the graces He showered on creation? What power will He wield in the age to come? He existed; He pre-existed; He co-existed with the Father and the Son before the ages. Even if you can imagine anything beyond the ages, you will discover that the Spirit is even further beyond. -St. Basil the Great-
Father, may I continue to be reminded of how priceless the gift of Your Spirit is in my life. He guides me, He convicts me, He counsels me, and through Him and Your Son I can approach Your throne and we communicate in perfect loving harmony. However, may I remember that this Gift is not just for me, but is meant to be shared with others You lead my way. May I represent You best by getting out of the way and letting Your Spirit work through me and in me. Help me Father to continue to trust You more each day.

Remembering Him,
~Matthew

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Greater things have yet to come ...


You're the God of this city
You're the King of these people
You're the Lord of this nation
You Are

You're the light in this darkness
You're the hope to the hopeless
You're the peace to the restless
You are

For there is no one like our God
There is no one like You God

For greater things have yet to come
And greater things are still to be done
In this city
Greater things have yet to come
And greater things are still to be done here

(Chris Tomlin - God of this City)

What a wonderful prayer walk in Detroit this morning. As tens of thousands of believers crowded the streets, and God parted the clouds, together we prayed, worshiped, laughed, and were one church. One church! It wasn't about denomination, race, gender, nationality, or economics. This was the Body of Christ.
"if my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land." (2 Chronicles 7:14 ESV)


The Spirit of Detroit sculpture in the picture above stands in front of a verse inscribed on the wall behind. The verse is from one of Paul's letter to the Corinthians.
"Now the Lord is that Spirit: and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty." (2 Corinthians 3:17)
As the nations watch Detroit rise from the ashes, may He get the glory! He is the Spirit of this city, this world, and our hearts.

Just one soldier in His Army,
~Matthew
Print Friendly and PDF

Want my journal entries sent to your e-mail address?

LinkWithin

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...

My Recent Posts

Blog Archive

Search This Blog