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

Thursday, April 14, 2011

The Flood!


"[The meek man] knows well that the world will never see him as God sees him, and he has stopped caring." - A.W. Tozer
That my dear friends is a wonderful freedom is it not? To stand in the midst of the world, with many looking down, confused, or perhaps even angered by the Rock we stand on and not be affected. It's that humble confidence that floods us with joy and peace in the midst of all that. It's Christ residing in our hearts, not just head knowledge. No more pretending who we are, or putting up this front to try and win favor over man; it's artificial:
"Artificiality is one curse that will drop away the moment we kneel at Jesus' feet and surrender ourselves to His meekness. Then we will not care what people think of us so long as God is pleased." - A.W. Tozer
This certainly describes the transformation He has been working in me. Oh sweet freedom! Not that I don't stumble, it's just that when I stumble I don't need to care if anyone saw or what they think. I just pick myself up (or be helped up) and keep walking to that cross!

Knowing Christ intellectually to knowing Him emotionally and completely (from our head to our heart) is a long journey. Yet once that path is carved out, get ready for a flood! Do you recall as a child making "rivers and lakes" on the beach? Digging a hole in the sand and then digging out a trench that connected your hole with the lake? And do you recall how as soon as that connection was made the water came flooding in? Oh! That's exactly what I'm talking about! My heart is being flooded!

Bring on the flood Father!

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

"Tuning in" to God

I think sometimes we try so hard to get Christian fellowship right, church done right, or worship done right, that we take our eyes off of God in hopes to make it better. We don't need to make it better, or try and draw closer to one another, He does that for us. I love how Tozer describes it:

"Has it ever occurred to you that 100 pianos all tuned to the same fork are automatically tuned to each other? They are of one accord by being tuned, not to each other, but to another standard to which each one must individually bow. So 100 worshipers meeting together, each one looking away to Christ, are in heart nearer to each other than they could possibly be were they to become “unity” conscious and turn their eyes away from God to strive for closer fellowship. Social religion is perfected when private religion is purified." - A.W. Tozer

I had this visual in my head that I needed to get down. Forgive the crude representation, but in fact the method to the left is actually a lot more complicated than I even drew it. When we align, when we "tune", ourselves to Christ, we will naturally draw closer together. We often talk about having our vertical relationship with Him as well as our horizontal relationships with others. However, a strong horizontal relationship with our brothers and sisters will naturally get stronger the more we align with Him. We of course need to maintain our relationships here on earth. However if our eyes continue to gaze upon Him while we are in these relationships they will naturally become closer. I think the reason the body of Christ is and can be so divided is because we focus so much on our local church, rather than the church of Christ. I have issues in this area for sure.

I have a tendency to lead my small group, not let Him lead
I have a tendency to focus on my agenda in my ministry meetings, not His
I have a tendency to lead my family as I see fit, not He

Father, help me to realize that even if I think my agenda is "good", it may not be "Yours". I need to focus my energy on tuning my relationship with You and let You work in me and others to draw the body closer together. Unification is what You seek, and we can only be unified if we all turn and gaze upon You. Forgive me for straying, and I thank You for Your grace during my departures. May my gaze continue to be fixed upon You more as our journey together deepens.


I appeal to you, brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment. (1 Corinthians 1:10 ESV)


Tuning,
Matthew

Thursday, April 7, 2011

God is the ultimate Musician!


As my heart is now beginning to feel Easter getting closer, it may be a good time for me to take some Spiritual inventory. While I know that it is often spoke of that we keep our fasting private, my sharing isn’t to lift myself up, but rather show how God is working in me and glorify Him. So on that note, for those that don’t know, I decided to give up 2 main streams of media in my life over these 40 days leading up to Easter; Facebook and television.

This time has been incredibly refreshing! Removing those roadblocks that have hindered my closeness with God has been an experience that is changing me. I wouldn’t say I had an addiction to any of those sources of media, and Facebook frankly is hardly even missed, but it has lead me to more time in the Word, prayer, and self-examination. In particular one of the gifts that I have been given that I have put aside is music. As my sister said, ‘look at what you find when you quit Facebook’. Or perhaps, ‘look at what you find when you remove the unnecessary noise from your life’.

I don’t think there is anything inherently wrong with Facebook, and I don’t think there is anything wrong with television; however it’s up to everyone individually to determine if it is beginning to eclipse their walk with God.  For me, it was.

I have rediscovered one of my most dear gifts, and that is my musical ability. I have put down my instruments for about 15 years and for the first time have begun to rediscover the love I have with music. I love the fact that my children hear music in the house, and my 5 year old daughter is an absolutely joy to watch as she dances and sings with daddy. Also however, I hear my Heavenly Father singing and exulting over me!

The LORD your God is in your midst,
                                a mighty one who will save;
                he will rejoice over you with gladness;
                                he will quiet you by his love;
                he will exult over you with loud singing.
 (Zephaniah 3:17 ESV)

Do you realize your God rejoices over you? He most certainly does! How amazing and humbling to know the God of the universe loves us emotionally as well! He loves you! He rejoices over you! He quiets you with His love! He sings over you! God is the ultimate Musician!

My trials and challenges in this world haven’t disappeared, yet I am learning to meet them with so much more peace and joy in my life. I am amazed at how much noise I have put between me and my God through avenues like Facebook, or television, or others. I consciously chose not to fast from food this season as He wasn’t leading me in that direction. As always He knows what we need, as this time of fasting that started out a bit difficult for me has led me to a place that I don’t want to leave; and I don’t plan to.

I’m excited to use my gifts (which have been hidden for far too long) to give Him glory! It may be simply be filling my house with music, it may be playing at my church, it may be bringing this gift to a nearby shelter, prison, or assisted living home, and just sharing the joy of music. Whatever He leads me to I’m excited as I will know one thing for sure, it’s not of me!

Thank You Father for your patience with me. Thank You for blessing me with not only the gift of music, but peace, love, and joy. Continue to call me, and may my ears be open to Your call. I don’t want a life that is about me, I want a life that brings You glory. Whenever I let go of self and let You direct my steps I am continually blessed beyond description; even if I can’t see it at the time with my nearsightedness.  Thank You for singing over me and rejoicing over me!  You are Holy, Holy, Holy, and while we were still sinners, Your Son died for us.

Praise God!
~Matthew


Tuesday, April 5, 2011

More than words ...


In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. (John 1:1 ESV)
We as believers often speak about the Word being alive and speaking to us as we open our Bibles. However I have far too often read it as a book, not the very live Word of God. God and the Word are one; He didn't speak, He is speaking. Tozer writes:
"I believe that much of our religious unbelief is due to a wrong conception of and a wrong feeling for the Scriptures of Truth. A silent God suddenly began to speak in a book and when the book was finished lapsed back into silence again forever. Now we read the book as the record of what God said when He was for a brief time in a speaking mood. With notions like that in our heads how can we believe? The facts are that God is not silent, has never been silent. It is the nature of God to speak. " - A.W. Tozer
When I open up my Bible may I remember that I'm not just trying to apply a stagnant piece of Scripture written log ago to shape me. Rather God is speaking to me in that very moment; guiding me, loving me, instructing me, and showing me His Will for my life. When I underline that passage that jumps off the page to me, may I realize that He just spoke to me in a very real and present way.

Father, help me to realize that Your Word is alive and active in my life. Let my mind and heart be open to your teaching and shaping. May I lay down my will at your feet and openly walk as you command. May I use Your Word as a guide and learn to be in communion with You through prayer. Thank You for Your Word; thank You for being the Word. Amen.

~Matthew

Monday, April 4, 2011

The Author of Life



There were a few things that stood out to me in Acts 3 tonight (I copied the chapter at the bottom of this entry if you're interested):

1) Peter's audience that he addressed weren't the only ones who killed the "Author of life" (verse 15); my sin combined with God's love for me is why He was hanging on that tree. He didn't have to come, but God's love is far greater than my sin could ever be. The Author of life ... died for me.

2) The fact that the beggar who was restored to "perfect health" (verse 16) still was given Peter's hand to help him rise (verse 7) says something. I think I could probably write two pages on that alone from different perspectives, but I know one thing; it says something significant. I don't just see a miracle here, I see discipleship.

3) "times of refreshing" (verse 20) means something very different than R&R. The more I worship, the more I serve, and the more I submit are the times I feel Spiritually refreshed. It's peace, and it's the kind of peace that Paul speaks of when he's in chains. That peace that some have in the midst of turmoil around them.

4) I also saw a healing of a beggar that didn't ask for it. Strange at first, until I saw how God was glorified in not only the beggar's reaction, but the crowd that got to hear the Gospel. I see a moment that was used to witness. This healing didn't make a beggar walk, it saved souls!

Father, thank you for how you reveal Yourself in Your Word. May I learn to meditate on It and let It transform me, and not just inform me. Continue to light my path so it leads to you, and make me bold to have confidence in sharing everything you freely offer. Your salvation you freely give along with the love, peace, and joy it comes with is not something you want me to keep to myself; may my eyes be open to the opportunities You give me so that I can share them. In Jesus' precious name I pray. Amen.

Now Peter and John were going up to the temple at the hour of prayer, the ninth hour. And a man lame from birth was being carried, whom they laid daily at the gate of the temple that is called the Beautiful Gate to ask alms of those entering the temple. Seeing Peter and John about to go into the temple, he asked to receive alms. And Peter directed his gaze at him, as did John, and said, “Look at us.” And he fixed his attention on them, expecting to receive something from them. But Peter said, “I have no silver and gold, but what I do have I give to you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk!” And he took him by the right hand and raised him up, and immediately his feet and ankles were made strong. And leaping up he stood and began to walk, and entered the temple with them, walking and leaping and praising God. And all the people saw him walking and praising God, and recognized him as the one who sat at the Beautiful Gate of the temple, asking for alms. And they were filled with wonder and amazement at what had happened to him.
While he clung to Peter and John, all the people, utterly astounded, ran together to them in the portico called Solomon's. And when Peter saw it he addressed the people: “Men of Israel, why do you wonder at this, or why do you stare at us, as though by our own power or piety we have made him walk? The God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, the God of our fathers, glorified his servant Jesus, whom you delivered over and denied in the presence of Pilate, when he had decided to release him. But you denied the Holy and Righteous One, and asked for a murderer to be granted to you, and you killed the Author of life, whom God raised from the dead. To this we are witnesses. And his name—by faith in his name—has made this man strong whom you see and know, and the faith that is through Jesus has given the man this perfect health in the presence of you all.
“And now, brothers, I know that you acted in ignorance, as did also your rulers. But what God foretold by the mouth of all the prophets, that his Christ would suffer, he thus fulfilled. Repent therefore, and turn again, that your sins may be blotted out, that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and that he may send the Christ appointed for you, Jesus, whom heaven must receive until the time for restoring all the things about which God spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets long ago. Moses said, ‘The Lord God will raise up for you a prophet like me from your brothers. You shall listen to him in whatever he tells you. And it shall be that every soul who does not listen to that prophet shall be destroyed from the people.’ And all the prophets who have spoken, from Samuel and those who came after him, also proclaimed these days. You are the sons of the prophets and of the covenant that God made with your fathers, saying to Abraham, ‘And in your offspring shall all the families of the earth be blessed.’ God, having raised up his servant, sent him to you first, to bless you by turning every one of you from your wickedness.”
(Acts 3 ESV)
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