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?
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