Saturday, November 3, 2012

Sandy Pride


As I sit here by the fire with my laptop, I felt the need to express some of my feelings on the recent disasters on the east coast with "Sandy". The unfortunate reality that some Christians believe that it was God's wrath on an unjust nation going astray frustrates me. While I believe God is just to express His wrath on any of us, in any way He chooses, I simply cannot support this Wrath of Sandy idea biblically. Yes, God has shown His power and wrath at times throughout history, I will not deny that. However, if you accept the Bible for what it is, yet take a black marker to passages of your choosing, you are not accepting the Bible, or God, or Christ, or the Christian faith.

I understand the desire to want an explanation for tragedy, especially personal tragedy. However the moment we start to see ourselves noticing the splinter in our brother's eye, we must immediately run to our Creator and beg Him to remove the plank in our own eye.

I said I was going to share my feelings on Sandy? Here is the passage I cannot escape ...
There were some present at that very time who told him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. And he answered them, “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans, because they suffered in this way? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish. Or those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them: do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others who lived in Jerusalem? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.” (Luke 13:1-5 ESV)
The tower didn't fall on them because they were worse sinners. Sandy didn't cause havoc on the east coast because they were worse sinners. When we see disaster may we see it for what it is, disaster, and a reminder for what is to come; worldly death for us all. Life is short, and our mission huge. Let the Bible be our guide, not our pride.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I need to go put another log on the fire.

Pray.
Vote.

~Matthew

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Law & Order

When I think of law and order (not the show, but the concept in general) I think of judges, police officers, and other individuals who keep the peace via methods of stopping crime and enforcing punishment. I certainly see other areas of law and order that are far less strict, however in a general sense, this is the picture I paint in my head. Likewise, God keeps order too, and does so in many ways. Yet when I look to God regarding law and order through His Word, I see one thing first and foremost; joy.

Reading through the eighth chapter of Nehemiah illustrates this well. After the rebuilding phase, Ezra read to the people the law of the LORD. Their response? Great rejoicing! Day by day the Law was read, and during this time, they were filled with joy! Law and order brought joy.

I decided to visit Psalm 119 after reading this, the longest Psalm, as speaks of this very topic. I love the words that come out on the page as I read verse after verse of how the author views God's law. They are commands, precepts, laws, but they bring this author to pen some incredible descriptions of this "law and order" that God put in motion. Here are just some of the words used to describe God's Word in this Psalm:
 
Delightful
Wonderful
Freedom
Life
Love
Hope
Comfort
Mercy
Grace
Precious
Sweeter than Honey
Light
Truth
Peace
Eternal
Trustworthy
A Shield
Boundless
These are not just distant words, from a distant author, from a distant God, out of touch and in the past. This is of a God active in my own life personally. I sat down feeling exhausted, short, and scattered from days of a difficult schedule. Thirty minutes later I feel alive, recharged, peaceful, and full of direction. His Word is amazing indeed.

My life should not be Law and Order, Matt Edition. The world tells me that escaping the bondage of my faith will result in freedom, liberation, and excitement! I tried that; fail. Life with Him is absolutely complete. I know the other side, and I'm glad to be home.

I am enjoying this Law and Order as my cup overflows; and not with gold and riches, but with peace. Something far more valuable ...

Enjoying the freedom that is in Christ
~Matthew
Your statutes have been my songs
in the house of my sojourning.
(Psalm 119:54 ESV)

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Toxic Relationships


There are some things I come across in my life that I simply know to stay away from consuming! Walking down the streets shopping in the UK on one of my last business trips, I came to find an interesting candy store. In an effort to search for some yummy treats for the kids (which I did find), I saw this, a candy blood bag! The idea turned my stomach, and I wasn't sure if I was going to get sick or just continue laughing with a squinted face! Obviously the creator of the candy was in fact creating something to be slightly gross in an effort to entertain. However, I have found that I need to stay away from consuming other things as well.
 

I've been finding that some relationships in my life also need to be avoided. I often battle the idea that the responsibility of having a Light is to bring it into darkness. While in many respects that is absolutely true, there are limits. At some point, the relationship may start to become toxic. When ears and hearts are hardened, and attacks of ill intent begin, it may be time to prayerfully walk away; shake the proverbial dust off our feet and move on.

I can use Facebook as a prime example of this issue. I have many friends who don't share my views of Christianity (or politics, a big one this time of year). However a vast majority show respect regardless. Only a handful of individuals have I identified as toxic and separated from most of my information, posts, and additional communication. Their attacks on my views are not debates, they are venomous insults. They create a breeding ground for dissension, hate, and slander (sometimes in the name of tolerance).

These are not protesters; these are individuals whose motive it is to silence opposing views by use of anger, slander, and ignorant assumptions. I know many that would love to share their heart but are concerned about the backlash and attacks. This is abuse. This is violence. While certainly not as intimate and damaging as the way verbal abuse is to a spouse, this type of abuse is still destructive to society as a whole, and hurtful to many individuals. I find it offensive that if these types of conversations and ways of talking were had in a marriage, that many would raise flags of emotional and verbal abuse. Yet outside marriage, in a "regular" relationship, these attacks are viewed as acceptable.

I will protect my family, my home, and my life from evil. I will not allow toxic relationships to disrupt my walk.

I also encourage you to prayerfully discern these toxic relationships in your life. While there may be ones that are difficult (or near impossible) to remove, think about how you can limit the abuse. Again, these are not people who disagree with you, these are people who want to aggressively silence you. While these individuals are free to speak as much as you and I are, we also have the responsibility and opportunity of limiting our exposure to such toxicity.

If you do step away, I ask that you continue to pray for those individuals in that their hearts would be softened, and that a relationship can be redeemed (primarily one between them and God). However until then, don't feel obligated to stand consuming something that is toxic when He has amazing plans for you. Shine the light on darkness, yes! But don't let the darkness back you into a corner and keep you from moving forward so others can see His light as well.

Praying for you,

~Matthew

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Overlooking the "Small Stuff"


Sometimes we can overlook something that may seem so small, or insignificant, but it can turn out to be one of the most amazing miracles God uses in our life. To me, one of the most interesting miracles in the Bible happened during Pentecost. Even if you read this 100 times, read this again with me:
Now there were dwelling in Jerusalem Jews, devout men from every nation under heaven. And at this sound the multitude came together, and they were bewildered, because each one was hearing them speak in his own language. And they were amazed and astonished, saying, “Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? And how is it that we hear, each of us in his own native language? Parthians and Medes and Elamites and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabians—we hear them telling in our own tongues the mighty works of God.” (Acts 2:5-11 ESV)
What I love about this story, as you may imagine from the passage I selected, was that these simple "Galileans" weren't just speaking some angelic tongue that somehow the others were able to understand by the power of God. The others heard their own common languages being spoke ... at the same time ... by the same people! Huh? Again, don't let the Sunday school story you heard many times water down your impact of this passage, this is pretty awesome stuff! However it got me thinking about these Pentecost moments today, in my life.

I was talking to my children today about this story (again) and something had occurred to me that I shared with them that I'd like to share with you. You see, there have been some personal conversations that I've had in the past surrounding my faith with various people throughout the last several years. There are times I've walked away from a conversation feeling quite proud. Proud because I was able to answer the questions [I felt] well, and supported them biblically (or by using other outside secular, scientific, or other sources). Then there are times I've walked away from a conversation that was really important to me feeling like I sounded like a complete idiot. I choose terrible examples, fumbled with my knowledge of Scripture, and felt I left more questions and doubt than helped give answers and clarity!

Usually however, those conversations that seem to fail in my eyes, are the ones that are emotionally significant, and close to me. They are the ones that I've prayed over, thought about while getting ready for work, or late at night. Perhaps because I am so concerned that I may say the wrong thing is the reason I fumble my words. Yet gloriously it is those conversations (though not all) that I hear back from (sometimes days later or longer) with with words like: "Thank you, that's exactly what I needed to hear."

Huh? How did you get anything out of that mess?!
"for the Holy Spirit will teach you in that very hour what you ought to say.” (Luke 12:12 ESV)
This Holy Spirit, is the same Spirit that made multiple people at Pentecost hear from the same men different languages at the same time. I wonder, I just wonder ... if when I speak in those moments ... those moments that I have prayed for ... if He doesn't take my Words and make them His before they reach the ears of my friends. Hmm.

Sound strange? Reminds me of part of this song:
You count it strange, so once did I ...
Before I knew my Savior (Aaron Schust, My Savior My God)
I love the way He works ...
~Matthew

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

The Work Resumes

Today is a special day for me ...



Five years ago today I stood in front of hundreds of people and was baptized in the name of Christ Jesus. It took me almost 30 years to not only truly find Him, but to find my need and love for the Cross as well. In return, He has blessed me with His presence and guidance in every moment of every day; if I should choose to seek Him.

So as I picked up my Bible today, I continued reading Nehemiah. As Nehemiah is organizing the rebuilding of these walls, and progress is being made, the enemy begins to feel threatened and plans to launch attacks. An enemy does not like to see progress from their opposition. However Nehemiah and the team rallied, supported, and protected each other so that the work could resume. Yet all the while they worked, they stood ready with their swords at their side, and prepared for the attacks of the enemy. They "labored with one hand, and held their weapon in the other" (Nehemiah 4:17).

All this reminded me of my journey these past 5 years. Once I started building, the enemy attacked. Some of the attacks surprised me, and came from those very close to me, while some from distant sources. Yet I hear the rally cries for Christ, and even amidst the attacks, my heart continues to grow stronger, more at peace, and joy filled. I can only pray that those who oppose me find the same joy, freedom, and life that I have found one day as well.

Additionally, over the past five years, I have discovered something else as well. While I love and will continue to study how He is revealed not only in the Word, but science and history, what draws me close to Him is not discovering Him with my head, but with my heart. Texts, research, and other information is all great, but nothing reveals Him more to me than simply sitting down with Him and talking. His revelation through prayer is more powerful than I ever would have thought.

I need not ponder the past 5 years too much, as I don't live for yesterday or tomorrow, but I live for today. So today my work continues; one hand on the task at hand, and the other on my sword.

"Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God,"
(Ephesians 6:14-17 ESV)
Thank You for this journey Abba ...

At the ready, for Christ,
~Matthew

Monday, September 24, 2012

Wait, let me think of something else.


Something hit me hard today. I was asked if I had any prayer requests by a friend online. Prayer has been on my heart a lot, and as always, so has the Holiness of God. My prayers don't often take shape into minor requests (though sometimes they do, as He welcomes us to come to Him for everything), sometimes they're big, but often lately I ask for Him to show me His will in a given situation. I do pray for peace a lot, and pray often that I can remember to draw from His strength, not my own.

So when I heard this request, my heart typed in: "Pray that I can be desperate for Jesus"

Then I hit backspace rather than enter.

Woah! Hold on Matt. I want to be desperate for Jesus? It reminded me of the prayer "Whatever it takes Father, make me like Jesus!" Whatever it takes? Desperate for Jesus? These are big words, and big prayers.

Often when in the moment of being shaped, I see it as pain. Going through loss, fear, agony, or terror are not choice situations for me (nor anyone that I'm aware of). Yet I've been through loss. I've been through fear. I've been through agony. I've been through terror. I know the human response is often wanting to compare our conditions to others. However for me, these were real emotions, even if others somewhere sometime can 'top me'. Whatever your trial is, don't compare it to others, it's your trial, and it's significant to you.

Could He shape me through blessings? Could I fall humbly at the feet of Christ in thanksgiving feeling desperate for Him? Sure. I absolutely think that. However my story shows that most of my growth has come through trials, fires, and being refined. Something I speak and write of often.

So here I sit, with His hands open asking me to Trust Him. Could it hurt? Yes. Will it hurt without purpose? No. Will I grow? Yes. So am I ready to grow?
“Behold, God is my salvation; I will trust, and will not be afraid; for the LORD GOD is my strength and my song, and he has become my salvation.” (Isaiah 12:2 ESV) 
Prayer request sent ...

I trust You

When Disappointment Leads to Zork

Zork? Yes, Zork! We talked about those "choose your own adventure" books we read as children, and to me, this is what came to mind! Wow did this take me back!


As we closed in prayer today at church, we asked for strength and courage to hand over the pen of our life, to the Great Author. So often we want to grab the pen and begin to write our own story. We want to change course, and "Choose our own Adventure" like we did when we read those books as a child. However we do so without understanding (or wanting to understand) that there is already a plan for our life, a perfect one. We just need to sit back and let Him read our story to us, and not spend our time fighting for the pen.

This perfect plan however, doesn't seem so perfect to us at times, and soon disappointment seems to justify our disobedience (Mark McGilvrey, www.5milechurch.org). That one hit me hard Mark! In a real, loving, and "light shining on darkness" kind of way. How true that is, that once we seem to start becoming disgruntled about the way this plan is taking shape, we [want to] try again to fight for that pen.

Without application and transformation however, powerful (and even anointed) words or sermons, are just that, words and sermons. So I suppose my next step is to ask myself the question, "What is His plan for my life, and am I trying to fight for the pen?"  I don't think the answer to that question is as difficult as it may seem. While I don't know the plan itself, I think I can safely say that I know when I'm not following it. How? As I said before in another post, the inaudible words of God are often more real and clearly understood than when someone is standing right next to me. Point being, I don't think it's hard to tell when you are disobeying God. There is a sense of discontent there that we may try to suppress, but it is fairly obvious (at least to me) when I'm going against the will of God.

So then, I guess we're back to that next step again? What is it for me?

Obedience. If I can understand ... I can obey.

I try to explain to my kids that obedience is not just what they should do, but that I care for them and it's in their best interest, not just something I want. As a loving father I will never ask my children to obey a command that will put them on the wrong path. Sounds like I need to continually hear the same lecture from my heavenly Father as well. When I think back on those more significant moments in my life where I took a greater leap of faith (obedience), the joy and adventure was all that more great as well. I hear the words, "Trust Me, I got this" ...

I'm encouraged to take that next step of faith. What is yours? Is His voice calling you in a different direction, or is His voice just a whisper of encouragement, saying: Jump. I got you.

Listen ... He is talking,
~Matthew

Friday, September 21, 2012

What did you say? I was too busy talking.


When it comes to my Spiritual life, it's amazing how ritual, legalism, rules, check boxes, religious behaviors, required actions, all start creeping in as things become routine. Being transformed starts to take a back seat to being informed. Information gained from the Scriptures starts taking priority over letting myself be transformed by Them and His amazing handiwork.

Don't misunderstand me, information is great, how could I say otherwise. The Scriptures are there [to some extent] to inform us indeed. After all, it's one of the ways He speaks to us. However, I began to take my current Bible reading plan and turn it into a check box. Is this an issue for everyone who has a reading plan? No. However for me it is at times. I decided to stop bouncing across books just to make sure I kept up with my plan and simply pick a spot, and start reading. I ended up in Nehemiah. Why Nehemiah? Ask Jesus, all I know is I was prompted to start there.

However upon starting, I was immediately drawn in by Nehemiah's prayer. Prayer has been on my heart lately for multiple reasons, and when I read that first chapter it reminds me of how beautiful, powerful, and very serious prayer is to His people.

Nehemiah, after receiving some difficult news, begins his prayer with weeping, mourning, and fasting. Before Scripture reveals the specifics of his prayer, he does this "for days". Some may say it was simply a time to cry and mourn, I sense that he needed (and wanted) to get his heart right before he presented his requests at the throne. I sense that "for days" when he was praying, he wasn't speaking, but listening.

The prayer continues with some beautiful passages. He wanted to stand in the gap and ask for forgiveness not just for himself, but for all of Israel. He recognizes and calls on God's promise, something that speaks of beautiful confidence in a Holy, but very personal and loving God.

However, I still reflect back to the days of fasting and prayer. I truly think he was listening, and waiting on God. Something that in the rush of "reading for information" I seem to need right now too, just some quiet time with him. Perhaps my prayers "for some days to come" should be spent simply listening, not talking.

His,
~Matthew

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Feeling Complete


I have had some pretty incredible moments in my life, and many of us share similar moments. Meeting our spouse for the first time, getting married, having children, or specific vacation memories that come to mind are just some of the common ones. We of course have those other beautiful moments that we tend to remember as well that perhaps may be more specific to our life. Additionally other moments such as getting that first job, promotion, or having the courage to change fields and find something new stand out in our minds. Still yet others like purchasing our first car, or house, boat, or even cottage stand out.

I've shared a lot of those moments, and others, but they never left me feeling like my life was now complete. Even with marriage and children, while by far almost at the top of my list, didn't leave an eternal feeling of lacking nothing. I was now in union with my wife, and starting a family, something that certainly completed many aspects of my life, but it didn't seal my purpose in this world.

I was quite successful at many things. Made good money at an early age, met a great woman and a beautiful girl to start a family with, always had a stable job, a loving family, and friends. I spent money on things that I wanted, enjoyed the things that my eyes desired, and lived life in the ways that society in general told me I should. On paper, I had it good. Sure, I could always use a little more, but that's what everyone wants right? Just a little more ...

I even remember a few times laughing (but only half joking), pointing at myself in the mirror and saying: "You da man!" Embarrassing? Sure, use it to make fun of me, don't care. However my point was simply that I thought I had it all (regardless if I did or not).

Yet in those quiet moments of life, when I was honest, I did have secret fears of my sand castles tumbling down. Failure. Wife, kids, job, money ... health, especially health. After all, dying would suck. I had so much left to do!

Then ... somehow ... (get your mouse ready to click the 'x') ... through unexpected ways, I met someone; Jesus Christ.

I was thinking just the other day that while I certainly don't exactly want to be hit by a bus, I feel ... complete. My life is complete. I do have much I want to do. Some of it worldly (watching my kids grow up, growing old with my wife, and exploring this world), and some of it for His Kingdom (I'm excited to see what He places on my heart as this journey continues to grow).

There will always be bills to pay, kids to challenge you, those that criticize you, and fires to go through, but do you feel complete? My goofy mind sometimes thinks that: "If I say I'm complete, then I'll get hit by that bus!"

No ... not complete in the sense that I have nothing left to do in this world, just complete in the sense that I now lack nothing.

I lack nothing. Christ is mine, and I am His.

I lack nothing.

I am complete.

And now I sit here with a smile ...
"And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. (James 1:4 ESV)"
Letting,
~Matt


Tuesday, September 11, 2012

So I ran 100 miles ...




OK, well not in a day, but in the month of August! It was a goal that I set, and one of the few that I actually met! I left many things in the dust during that month, some of them great things to leave behind. Doubt about my running ability, lack of consistent dedication to my health, and even the lie that I don't have time for myself.

After all, we should be taking care of ourselves. This body is a gift, and as a thank you to the amazing Gift Giver I would like to take care of this vessel. However I left something else behind that I didn't expect; Him.
"for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come." (1 Timothy 4:8 ESV)
So do I intend to back-down my workouts or start eating some more pizza? No, not at all. However it wasn't the exercise that was the problem, it was the sacrifices that I made to fit it in. I have a lot of hobbies, and I have a tendency to want to fit all those in, and in turn, my devotional time, prayer life, and study took a hit.

These sacrifices had nothing to do with obligation, checking a box, or feeling like I didn't give God something I required. Leaving Him in the dust didn't leave Him feeling empty, it left me feeling empty. You know that "Peace of Christ that transcends all understanding.", well that is hard to attain when you're running away from Him and pushing away the source of all that peace. It is that peace that is just part of the promise that Paul writes to Timothy in the above verse.

It reminded me of my life before Christ; I accomplished much, but was never truly satisfied.

On my next 100 miles, or whatever goal I set forth next, He will be leading me. Then I will walk away from a goal feeling like I accomplish much, and also walk away feeling truly satisfied!

Blessings,
~Matthew

Monday, September 10, 2012

New Beginnings ...


This is certainly a season of new beginnings for me. I can speak of many, including prayerfully and peacefully leaving one church body and finding another closer to our new home. A new school year is upon us, as is also my annual work cycle. We have a new ministry season beginning at many churches, which for me includes new beginnings to studies and small groups. From a health point of view, after recently battling a bit of a virus, I'm looking forward again to getting back to eating healthy and taking care of my body with regards to exercise again.

However more significantly, over the summer due to many factors, my mantra of being on "His Path, Daily", turned more to weekly. Partly due to logistics and my ability to be involved in my former church body, however a much greater reason was simple choice.

In response, I've begun taking the step-approach to increasing my prayer life. Step 1, pray; there are no further steps.


So on the way to work, I pulled over, got out of the car on this beautiful morning, watched a few moments of the sunrise with my coffee, and  just thanked Him for something He knows much about; the opportunity for new beginnings.

"The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases;  his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. “The LORD is my portion,” says my soul, “therefore I will hope in him.” (Lamentations 3:22-24 ESV)
My road this coming year may end up feeling like a newly paved black top highway, or it may seem more like I94 through Detroit during rush hour. Whatever path it is, I pray I will recognize it as His (and not one I try to call my own) and will use it for His Glory.


Getting back to His Path, Daily ... again :)

Loving you all and Him, and praying for whatever new beginnings you are facing,
~Matthew

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Unseen Words


I wrote an unpublished blog. It felt good to put something in writing for things that were on my heart, and watch the words fizzle away. Frustration, anger, pain, sadness, are a part of my journey, and I grow through them. I am thankful to have not only my God that listens to me whenever I need, but also friends that offer loving sound advice.

I wonder if some of the writings of David when he vented in frustration would be uncomfortable for him to know we were reading thousands of years later. However that's the beauty of Scripture, all of it. Not only do we get direction, history, or prophesy, but we get art, drama, and passion. The Bible to me is proof that we need the arts, as it speaks to us, we were created with passion by a passionate Creator.

Writing down unseen words, reading similar emotions, and talking to good cousel is a beautiful and peaceful part of my journey. I used to internalize my emotions, unaware of to where and whom to direct them to. Having a healthy outlet is wonderful. To some, it's music, exercise, or time alone. To me it's often the written word, seen or unseen.
"So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love." (1 Corinthians 13:13 ESV)
~Matthew 

Monday, July 23, 2012

Scavengers Come After the Kill


Scavengers have a critical environmental impact, yet their job description isn't any less gruesome. As defined, a scavenger is an animal or other organism that feeds on dead organic matter. Not exactly the job to write home about. However a scavenger comes after the kill, not to make it. Many killers are the fast, smooth, and beautiful ones. The eagles, the hawks, the lions ...


I see an eagle swooping down in an attempt to make its kill when I read this verse ...
“Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat, but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail.” (Luke 22:31-32a ESV)
There are so many things that come to mind when I read this passage:

  • The word for demanded here is exaiteo in Greek, which also implies an asking, or permission.
  • Jesus is clearly our intercessor. Without His intercessory prayer and denial of permission, Satan would have had his way with Simon (Peter)
  • Jesus knew Peter would doubt and deny Him. Yet he didn't fail when he denied Him three times, because failure is not defined by a mistake, but by giving up.
  • How many times has Jesus prayed for me that my faith will not fail? I know He does. Reminds me of the unknown pitfalls that He rescued me from. (My earlier thoughts on this here)

While I could examine any of these points (and more), the overall concept of Satan demanding the destruction of Peter gives me goosebumps. It's a chilling reminder that when great things are about to happen, the more we're in the game, there is a lion waiting to devour us. I can picture Jesus saying to me right now, Matthew, Satan has demanded to have you, but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail.


And to what end? For love? Yes, but more than love. He saves so that:

"And when you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.” (Luke 22:32b ESV)

May we live this life in joy, peace, and love to strengthen our brothers and sisters in Christ. There may indeed be a lion waiting to devour us, but let us never forget there is another Lion ...


Blessings,
~Matthew




Thursday, July 19, 2012

Unshakable



Cathan in Chicago was able to build at LegoLand a structure that withstood 5 earthquakes! OK, well it was a motorized platform that shook his tower, but you get my point! He had a good foundation. Did the color of the bricks matter? No. Could other towers be built to withstand that shake? Sure; with a good foundation.

So what about me? What are some of my foundation bricks that while some try to convince me otherwise, I just can't reasonably remove?

  • To me the idea of a creator using intelligent design makes sense.
  • To me the resurrection of Jesus happened and is supported.
  • To me the story of the Bible is sound and consistent.
  • To me the Holy Spirit has guided me in ways beyond description.
  • To me Jesus is Who He says He is based on His life, the prophesy, and His miracles.

So where does that leave me? A God that makes sense, His Spirit guiding me, His Son dying for me, and His Word and will in my hands.

So where do I go from here?

I take that Book, that instruction manual for my life, and sit down with my Father and build something unshakable.

The more I go down this road, the more I study, the more I research, the more I open my eyes (not close them) the more this rock of a foundation is built. I know too much to go back ...

~Matthew

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Daring to be Different



Walking the streets of London I certainly saw some different things. Clearly the half naked British gentleman, juggling knives, on stilts, in his undies was one of those different things! At first I laughed, shook my head, and wondered why. However, that is exactly why; he wants to be remembered for being different. Many of the other street performers I saw that day are already slipping through the cracks in my memory. The musicians, artists, actors, etc. However the guy in red undies will (unfortunately?) never be forgotten!

Sunday I was blessed with a great teaching from one of our Pastors on just that. OK, well not 'just that', but about daring to be different (http://t.co/XT2udEm7). We spent some time in Acts and went over some great history and other lessons, but in the end, am I going to walk away daring to be different, or just more informed? Karl said something that really stuck with me.
"If you were sitting next to Paul, you would hear the Gospel." Not in a weird way, not in a Scripture crushing you over the head way, but in an inspiring way.
If someone sat next to me, would they know the hope that is in me? Would they hear the Gospel? I think at times we are good and sounding Spiritual saying that we're waiting for God to open that door or opportunity to share the Good News. However are we really listening to God, waiting, asking God when, looking for opportunities, or is comfort driving that decision to hold off?

"If I really believe, that what I believe, is really real" (Thanks Del) then what on earth am I doing sometimes? I live, laugh, and love because I have been gifted with it. And I live, laugh, and love even more because I get to do that forever. Why on earth would I not walk around jumping for joy all day long? I know there is pain, suffering, challenges, and uncertainty to some (many) things. I'm not expecting to be flawless, and I don't have all the knowledge of the Father (and for those of us who like control, that's a struggle at times). However am I going to be renewed and transformed, or am I going to blend in with culture, disappear, and just wait on The Day?

I think many that call on the name of Christ still struggle with some basic beautiful Truths. Many of us grew up reciting (and some still do) creeds of our faith. Do we believe those words? Don't just run through the idea that "Yeah, Jesus rose from the dead". Do you get that? He was DEAD! He came back to LIFE! This isn't a story of your flowerbed that got a little yellow and you threw some water on and it got green again. A human body was dead ... for days ... and then walked again! Isn't that enough to make you stop and ponder? I'm not going to go down an apologetic path here, but my faith in that incident is not because some really nice pastor told me so. That's a pretty awesome story to tell ... and there is some Good News that comes with that story on why is was and had to be told.

While just that belief alone makes me different, it is not very bold and daring of me if I keep it to myself ...

God loves you and so do I,
~Me

Sunday, July 15, 2012

My Naked Hand



So leaving for church this morning I happened to forget my phone as it was charging in my room. For as much as my phone requires charging I'm beginning to think my full size van is more green ... but I digress. The point is I don't think I realized how much I reached for it until it wasn't there. I was a little bummed when I realized I forgot it as I was going to be out all day, as we had a party to go to afterwards, but in all honesty I wasn't upset as much as I was surprised. Again, surprised at how much I reached out for it when the light turned red, or checked my pocket occasionally throughout the day.

If you can believe it, by the time I got home, no text message, missed call, voice mail, notification, tweet, or anything else was so important that it had to be dealt with. Amazing huh?

In some ways my phone is helpful. I will say that my phone usage has replaced things more that it has added. My e-mail, browsing, Facebook, calendar, running logs, etc. are all managed on my phone. I rarely use my home PC anymore. So to be fair, it's not like I have created a bunch of new things, so much as condensed them on my phone. The danger for me however, is that I now carry all those things with me 24/7. 

I find it ironic that I shared my thoughts recently on the noise in this world, and in some cases, am a very strong player. So while I don't feel I am off my rocker (whatever that means) with respect to my time devoted to those things, I don't think I realized how habitual they had become.

My wife and I recently talked about how after getting home from work, phones are on the cradle (ok, so they don't have cradles but you get my point). After the kids are in bed, and we finished catching up, if we decide to take some time to ourselves, great, but that shouldn't get in the way of us. Personally, I think I need to have a day (Sunday sure sounds like a good one) where my phone is not used other than to make an actual call; I think my phone has an app for making calls still.

OK, so Jesus didn't have Facebook, I know. I also know that social networking is not evil either, and in fact, as a major communication method of the day (10 years we'll have others), it can be used in wonderful ways too. However there are some Words that jump out to me ...

Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. (1 Peter 5:8 ESV)
This reminds me that while none of these things I mention above that my phone does are destructive in themselves, they can be tools. I have seen relationships fractured because of online relationships, I have seen marriages lose their spark because of worldly distractions, I have seen parents lose sight of their children because of disconnect, I've seen people get fired because of misuse of these tools, and all I can say to myself and everyone, is be sober-minded ... be watchful ... because many things can consume us if we let them. Forgetting my phone for a day made me look at this electronic rectangle and ponder the words ... idol?

Be watchful ... and pray that I am too.

I love you all,
~Matthew

Friday, July 13, 2012

The Squelch Knob of Life



For those of you with any CB radio experience (or other transmitting radios), squelch is nothing new. Simply put, it's a function that will eliminate extraneous noise from distant or lower strength sources so your radio receives only closer or stronger signals. It gives you much more focus on the signals you want to receive, and silence during the times when there is none. My "squelching memories" come up most when I think about my early days hunting with large AM radios so we could communicate with each other in the woods. If we turned the squelch up too high, we would possibly lose critical communication, but too low would cause for a noisy time in the woods; not something that helps a focused hunt! It required balance.

These days squelch comes across my mind in an entirely different way when I think about things like:

  • Billboards
  • Radio Commercials
  • Honking Horns and Sirens
  • Workplace Chatter
  • Video Games
  • Television Shows
  • Mega Stores and Malls
The list could continue ...


We are bombarded with so much noise in our lives it is no wonder at times I am simply exhausted when the quiet of night finally comes. There are times I actually introduce noise (music in my headphones) so I can eliminate noises elsewhere and concentrate; go figure. I wish at times I could take the squelch knob of life and crank it up to give myself a break from it all. However that's not an option, so I must find ways to focus the best I can. I think we all have our ways, but clearly for me it's prayer and quiet times like this as I write these words.

While we can blame mass media for adding so much noise to our life, I don't think that distractions are anything new. We like to worry, ponder, and think about things that don't ultimately don't matter much, or are out of our control. I think God had more than one thing for us to relate to when He spoke through Paul as these words were penned:
"Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any  excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things." (Philippians 4:8 ESV)
When I focus on Him, or His creation, or His glory, or the blessings in my life, or the amazing things that He has done in me personally, I am able to tune out the noise of the world. I don't necessarily turn off the world, I just direct my attention to Him. The noise is still there, but when I gaze upon His face it shines brighter than any other distraction could ever create.

If you don't know Him, I pray that you will take the time to ...
When I feel God tugging on my heart for some time with Him, I can either feel guilty that I have wandered, or I can feel amazed that He does not. I choose the latter. ~Me
Blessings and Love,
~Matthew 

Sunday, May 27, 2012

The Release



I often have said to others when discussing various matters that I need to pray about it. I don't use that as an excuse to not respond or deal with an issue, I honestly think that some matters truly require more serious counsel. However, while I may never thought to verbalize this, I think my heart sometimes feels that there is some time needed to work out these issues, and that it may take a certain duration of time.

While that certainly may be the case, it clearly is not what I think most of my prayers need.

Recently, I have been going though a few significant struggles. I ended up calling on some of my brothers to pray with/for me over the course of the week as I in turn would be doing the same. My hope was to gain some discernment on some decisions that needed to be made, to make sure they glorify Him, and not just me.

I'll pause for a moment as I want to talk about relationships. I think many of us realize that while time with those we love is clearly important, it's not always the quantity, but the quality of the time. With Christ it is no different. For some reason I think I had this subconscious understanding that the longer I prayed, the more clear I would be on how to respond to His will. "Hey guys, I'm going through some stuff right now ... could you pray for me this week while I do the same?" To me that request screams "this is going to take a while".

So going back to my recent struggles, I found myself at the end of a dock this past weekend on a quiet dark lake pouring my heart out God. While it was a dark night on a floating dock (and I was a bit tired), the only thing that fell off was my baggage. I didn't need a lot of time, I just needed to have my heart in the right place. I didn't need countless hours of waiting for an answer, I just needed to leave it at the cross. I didn't need to carry it, I just needed to release it.

I walked off the dock with the same situations in my life I walked onto the dock with, however I wasn't the one carrying the load anymore ... He was. I did get a few nudges, a few hints, but not much more. However that's all I need, because He is in control, and I trust Him more than I trust myself.

There would be little that would bring me more joy than to know that you experience the same.

He is beautiful ... and you were worth the cross to Him.

His,
~Matthew

"I think sometimes those bumps in the road are just speed bumps. They slow me down enough so I see Him through the windshield again guiding my way. I picture Him saying, "slow down son" ~Me

Monday, May 14, 2012

Burned Out


Many thoughts enter my head when I see this neglected and abandoned old church. Let me be clear in stating I don't know the story behind this place, or what led to its end, but I do know stories that create places that look like this. As leaders in our areas of influence, whether it is a stay at home mom, a corporate executive, a missionary, or a pastor in the suburbs; our responsibility is to raise up other leaders for the future generation. We should be instilling our values in the ones we influence, so that when our time is done, we have helped encourage another to leadership. Too often I think pride and being in control can lead us to hold our gifts as leaders to ourselves, so that our vision dies with us.
 "and what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also." (2 Timothy 2:2 ESV)
This verse clearly is talking about the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the teachings of Paul to Timothy and his commission for him. However I think it offers a glimpse into true leadership in general. It pushes me to ask myself, what kind of leader am I? At work, at home, and in the church?

I don't often write about work, but lately it has been a big struggle. I haven't felt like this in years, and I am having a difficult time finding my balance. I used to love what I did for a living, and I want to feel that way again. Yet I am beginning to realize that it is not so much the task, as how I choose to do the task, which defines my enjoyment. I know my comment may seem trite to some, yet I truly think that attitude defines how I will enjoy my day.

Is it demanding? Incredibly. Am I feeling burned out? Yes.

Yet when I look at this church, the building may be crumbling, but the Truth it reads still remains. I have a choice to pick up the rubble, rest in Him, and begin again. I can choose to eagerly look for those to support my workload, and teach and train them, or clutch tight to the stress and let it bring me crashing down.

I have some great ideas for what I can offer my employer, and I know that they would be willing to listen and support them. I heard one time that "your best employees burn out first". The explanation was due to the fact that your 'best employees' may be the harder working ones and thus will end up taking on too much. However, while there may be reasons to leave a position and company, I would say that your 'best employees' are the ones better at not letting themselves burn out to begin with. Your 'best employees' know their limits and function better as an individual and employee. Your 'best employees' are your true leaders.

What kind of leader am I?

May I learn from my Leader ... the One mentioned and read on a building that is crumbling yet still proclaims Truth. He is one Leader worth following ...

Rebuilding,
~Matthew

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Making it Reality


As a child making a trip "up north" to our family cottage was always one of my most fond memories. The road trip seemed to end in my mind at West Branch when we passed The Smiley Face! It was (and still is) a water tower, painted yellow, with a giant smiley face looking towards I75. As a passenger, once I saw that image from the car, I felt as if we were finally "up north". Yet it was almost something more magical for me than reality, and it wasn't until my adult years that it changed. One time I took my own children off the exit to go find it, see it, and even touch it! We were able to pull right up to it (in an industrial parkway) and place our hands against the giant water tower. My children thought it was quite fascinating, but I think it meant more to me looking back. Over 30 years, this was something that was not quite real to me; oh it was there, but not until I touched it myself as an adult did the mystery finally vanish, and the reality of it truly sunk in.


I think I do that with God all too often; I put Him off at a distance. I see Him as real, but all too often don't take the extra few minutes to walk up to Him and hold His hand. I tend to let life get in the way to the point where my daily routine is more real than I make Him.

There is a particular passage in Isaiah (chapter 44) that describes the folly of idol worship. The concept, rather specific to carved images, paints a picture of someone taking a piece of wood, chopping it up, cooking his food over half of it in the fire, and carving an idol out of the rest; in which he falls down to worship. The picture it paints is almost humorous to me with respect to the lack of logic it illustrates, yet it ends with a question that I can ask myself today.
"They know not, nor do they discern, for he has shut their eyes, so that they cannot see, and their hearts, so that they cannot understand. No one considers, nor is there knowledge or discernment to say, “Half of it I burned in the fire; I also baked bread on its coals; I roasted meat and have eaten. And shall I make the rest of it an abomination? Shall I fall down before a block of wood?” He feeds on ashes; a deluded heart has led him astray, and he cannot deliver himself or say, “Is there not a lie in my right hand?”  (Isaiah 44:18-20 ESV)
What lie to I hold in my hand as reality?

I may not sit down and carve an image out by the campfire, but I have carved images in my heart. Struggles that few know, stresses that burden me unnecessarily, and problems that I make more real than the solutions provided by Jesus Christ. My situations won't magically go away, they are real too. Yet just as real is the One who continues to rescue me and guide me, even when my stubborn heart gets in the way.

Making Him Reality,
~Matthew

Sunday, April 15, 2012

The Power of Burgess Falls

"When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you. For I am the LORD your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior."
(Isaiah 43:2-3a ESV)
While this passage was to a nation, it speaks of His character to us still today.

There will be days I feel like I drowning.
There will be days I feel like I'm burning up.
Yet there will not be days without Him.

Even in days when there is a storm surrounding me, and I may feel that I'm at the edge of something unstoppable, I still have a foundation in Him to stand on. Knowing that regardless of my situation, or outcome, He is still the same yesterday, as He is today, as He will be tomorrow. I'm not promised that I will be guided around life's trials to avoid them, I'm just promised that He will be with me through each of them.





It reminded me of a time when we were hiking through Tennessee and came to Burgess Falls. There was a spot we could get to (due to water levels) where we could sit right on the side of the waterfall looking over. Here, in one of the pictures, my wife sits taking a short video of of something we could never quite capture in motion or still photo; and that's the truly awesome power of the rushing water all around us. Getting a chance to sit also at the base of the falls (after an interesting climb down with the kids!) was an experience neither of us will ever forget. Alone, just our family, in front of a power, sound, and mist so incredible it's hard to put into words.

... and that doesn't even begin to describe the power of our God!

Awestruck,
~Matthew

Saturday, April 14, 2012

gen-ius [jeen-yuhs]



So my son and I were watching Sweet Genius today, a cooking and competition show framed around desserts with given themes and ingredients. Aside from the fact that the host was giving me the creeps, the theme of being a genius also came to mind. On the show, they are in search of the Sweet Genius to win the prize and acclaim. However in my world, being a genius takes on a bit more of a serious tone, rather than a whimsical personality and culinary mind as I saw today.

Dictionary.com defines genius as such: "an exceptional natural capacity of intellect, especially as shown in creative and original work in science, art, music, etc."

However my favorite vocabulary resource (Noah Webster's 1828 Dictionary) defines it a bit differently. While one of his alternative definitions certainly describes the one above, his primary definition is much different.
n. [L. from the root of gigno; Gr. to beget.] 1. Among the ancients, a good or evil spirit or demon supposed to preside over a man's destiny in life, that is, to direct his birth and actions and be his guard and guide; a tutelary deity; the ruling and protecting power of men, places or things. This seems to be merely a personification or deification of the particular structure or bent of mind which a man receives from nature, which is the primary signification of the word.
What genius guides me? What genius personifies my state of mind? To me, the answer to both of these questions is not a thing, or idea, but a Name. It's a name above all names; Jesus Christ.

Yet ... there is another ...

To some he goes by Satan, the Devil, Beelzebub, or perhaps you know him by Lucifer, or the father of lies? He has many names. It doesn't take long if you know me close enough to see conflict at times in this genius I am being led by. I would hope that my walk slowly starts to reflect more of the Former Name I mention that any of the latter ones, however I still have many moments that don't exaclty reflect the beauty of Christ.

Thank God for Grace, and not works of merit!
"And I will lead the blind in a way that they do not know, in paths that they have not known I will guide them. I will turn the darkness before them into light, the rough places into level ground. These are the things I do, and I do not forsake them. (Isaiah 42:16 ESV)
So while I may endure another creepy episode of Sweet Genius with my son to satisfy his mental sweet tooth and some evening time spent with his dad, I'll also thankfully endure another day of trials. I do because I know the Genius that leads me does so with Grace. I may be led astray from time to time by another name, but I know my Shepherds voice, and sweet it is!

~Matthew

"In my view, the Christian religion is the most important and one of the first things in which all children, under a free government ought to be instructed.. .No truth is more evident to my mind than that the Christian religion must be the basis of any government intended to secure the rights and privileges of a free people." - Noah Webster

Thursday, April 12, 2012

God, You are Loved!



... those are the words of my 6 year old daughter that continue to melt my heart. She has such a heart for God, and such a special understanding of love that it makes me smile day after day.
"We love because he first loved us." (1 John 4:19 ESV)

As I write this she walks up to me with a hand wrapped package of a few of her Easter candies with a note that says I <3 You. :)

I remember one time not too long ago we put a list in her room that she wanted to hang on her wall. The task was to think of things that God did for her, so throughout the coming days she could write down things that God did for her and reflect on them. First one on her list? "God created me to love Him" - Simple words with some profound theology! I know that for some, this idea is offensive; self-denial. Worship and submission are evil words in culture. Yet it's at the foot of the cross when I completely give up myself that I rise full of joy and victory. The more I give up my life, the more I enjoy it! It's a daily practice though!

I am laughing in joy as I type this right now because I love how counter-cultural His ways are, and yet how perfect and joy-filled they prove to be. Storms come and go in my life ... but it's His joy that is deeper and longer lasting than any surface level, temporary, happiness I could find elsewhere.

... I think my 6 year old gets it ... I wonder though if she knows that while Christ guides her through me at times, she is also guiding me :)

I love you Sabina ...

And yes ... God, You are Loved!

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Got Anxiety?


This sign cracked me up on my last trip to the UK! Reminds me of some battles I had in my past however! Anxiety and I go way back, like longtime friends. Through it, God has given me some amazing lessons, and at the same time, some painful frustrations. We don't hang out as much as we used to, but he does try to visit occasionally; most of the time I just slam the door shut. I could probably begin reciting passages in His Word that talk about anxiety, and through all their familiarity, they still teach me. Today was no different as while reading through Luke 12 with the kids we made our way to verse 25:
"And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?" (Luke 12:25 ESV)
I love how quickly my son picked up his head, looked at me, and recognized the other side of that verse immediately. He said, "You don't add life dad, you waste it." I love the heart of a child. Note that he and I share some wonderful personality traits, yet my old friend seems to enjoy hanging out with him sometimes too. His recognition of his own struggles so early will hopefully keep him from suppressing it like a trap that will spring later in life; my hope is that it will disarm it.

Regardless, the answer for my battle was not a perspective, counseling, or a mindset (while they certainly can help); it was and continues to be Jesus. I've had attitude adjustments before, I've gone through counseling, talked to friends, I've been on medication; no resolution. I can't exactly explain to a non-believer outside of experience how different it is when Jesus' hand pulls you out of a pit; I wish I could put it into words.

I don't know why I have had to go through these fires.
I don't know why others continue to go through them.
I don't know why He decided to rescue me from this.

Yet, I do know He did; and He is getting all the glory here.

I just think today was an interesting day. It was an affirmation for me on where He has brought me thus far, causing me to be thankful all over again, and at the same time it was encouraging for my son. It also was a reminder to me in the ways I need to support and pray for my children (together and individually) as well. I have other struggles, but I know what it feels like to be rescued from one too.

Got Jesus?
~Matthew

All My Eggs (not) in the Basket



It's fascinating to me that as I get farther in my life and career, the idea of retirement passes through my mind from time to time. However, the more it passes in, the quicker it passes out.
"And I will say to my soul, “Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.”’ (Luke 12:19 ESV)
... a rich fools errand.

I feel less and less called to retire eventually. Just the concept of living for me, celebrating all my hard work, and taking it easy feels ... well ... uneasy to me. I understand that being lazy and not planning smartly is not exactly what He asks of us. However I don't need storehouse after storehouse so that my bank account is my savior the last 10, 20, 30, 40 years of my life. Again, this "living for me" thing is becoming more foreign to me as the days pass.

I think there is more to a smart financial plan than banking as much cash as I can possibly bank, finding every IRA, 401k, and other investments I can make so that I can live comfortably in my golden years. I don't want comfort, I want an adventure with God.

I don't need a discussion on investing, I'm not exactly ignorant there. I don't need graphs, charts, numbers, and recommendations. I don't need rolling eyes or pounding fists from financial advisers. I just need Jesus. Sorry if that sounds stupid to you ... it sounds awesome to me! :)

A real live Jesus Freak,
~Matthew

Monday, April 9, 2012

Earned Trust



Loving someone is one thing, trusting someone is another. I love my wife, as well as trust her; however the later clearly took more time than the former. Being hurt in relationships causes scars that make trust difficult, but not impossible. Through our dating, engagement, and even earlier years of marriage, I learned to trust my wife my with whole heart; far more difficult than loving her.

Similarly, it's interesting to see the trust journey of some of the earlier biblical characters with God, like Jacob. Having a flawed, but godly father in Isaac, one may think that trust may have been built in the strength of their family (although that was a bit of a mess too!). Regardless, Jacob needed to have his own journey with the Lord, as we all do.

I pause and say that we don't need to place conditions for trusting the Lord. We Trust Him because He is Trustworthy. Yet He knows our fallen human nature, and hurt we have experienced, and stays with us on the journey regardless of how we may doubt Him.

Jacob, as he began to travel to Haran, had a quite amazing dream. Yet even with his knowledge of God, guidance from his father, and own experiences thus far in his life, he still uttered the words "If God will ... then the LORD shall be my God". (Genesis 28:20-21)

I think he loved God. Yet he trusted God ... conditionally.

It got me thinking about my own journey, as Scripture always should. How many times have I waited on God to reveal Himself before I made a motion of trust? Don't get me wrong, there are times when we are called to wait on Him. Clearly though, I know there have been times when I perhaps tested God. Sometimes it came out like this:

"If God will just make this sin less tempting, then perhaps I won't be sinning so much. So I'll just keep on praying that He makes it less tempting."

Why? So sacrifice won't be needed, Matt? So I don't need to lean on trusting Him first?

Trust is something earned indeed. There will never be perfect trust in a human however, as no matter how good willed someone may be, things like pride always like to find a way of sneaking in from time to time. However, we do have Someone we can trust, and trust completely and perfectly. He already has earned that trust ... in many ways.

The tomb is empty ... may I continue to die to self, and rise with Christ


His Path, Daily. And what a beautiful, peaceful, joyful path it is ...

His,
~Matthew

My Prayer/Action: Where in my life am I not trusting God? What will I do about it?

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

The Nail Mystery



I feel sometimes that God works much like a nail taken from the ground.

Have you ever came out of the grocery store and walked to your car to find a rusty old nail on the ground behind someones tire? Have you ever picked it up out of courtesy? You get in your vehicle, pull away, and not realize that the tire you just saved possibly saved a lot of grief. Perhaps you saved some children from not missing swim lessons. Perhaps you saved a gift that was to be purchased but otherwise would have gotten placed on hold due to the tire repair. Perhaps you saved a blowout at 78mph. Perhaps you saved a life.

Yet you just drive on, throw that rusty nail away at home, and hug your children as you get home from a long day at work with some fresh groceries to cook dinner.

Or maybe ... it was your tire the nail was under.

As I sat with Him today in prayer, I told myself I would thank Him for His works (recount my blessings) in my life today. It began as a struggle; after all, today was not much out of the ordinary. Yet I began to recall how just an 'ordinary' day is such a blessing. I never did get that call that my father in law's surgery went south; because it didn't. I didn't have to discipline my kids today due to poor behavior; because they were fine. I didn't have to man up and apologize to a friend, my wife, or a coworker because of my loss of temper; because I didn't lose it. I didn't have to try and mentally deal with the burden of a particular anxiety; because it wasn't there. I didn't have to wonder what I would make for dinner; because my fridge is full of food. I didn't have to wonder where my next paycheck would come from; because I got paid today.

My point is that God's protection is all around me, even in the everyday. My God is not a God that I measure by my health, wealth, and prosperity (if He was, He sure hated the Apostle Paul). I'm just saying that perhaps there was an attack coming from one of those directions. Perhaps there was something the enemy was stirring up to throw at me. Perhaps there was a rusty nail that was found at my doorstep, and He picked it up.

I will never know, but I will thank Him anyway.

And I will thank Him even when I do have a blowout at 78mph ... because He's still there with me through it all. He's still God.

"I will give thanks to the LORD with my whole heart; I will recount all of your wonderful deeds." (Psalm 9:1 ESV)

~Matthew

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

The Joy of Cupcakes!


Those cupcakes were delicious! I remember the first time I walked into "Just Baked" with Sabina and watching her eyes light up; it was precious! Aside from cupcakes, I have always loved good food. A lot of my weight gain (that I'm thankfully almost done battling for the time being) was due to just that, enjoying good food! I was rarely a stress eater, I just truly enjoyed eating and drinking great food and having guests over for dinner!

Social gatherings have a way of taking us away from the problems of this world. For me, sitting down with a glass of wine, enjoying some great food, and laughing with friends is hard to beat. However, David speaks of an even greater joy, one that I should let myself experience more often:

"You have put more joy in my heart than they have when their grain and wine abound." (Psalm 4:7 ESV)

David had his share of ups and downs, no question. However he clearly sought his first love, and that was the Lord. I have to remind myself from time to time of the cause for joy I have in Christ. I know my path, I know where I was headed, and I know His Grace and Promise. How can a few amazing laughs compare with His promise of eternity?

We could discuss how we should honor that gift; with service to Him and others (his sheep everywhere). However at the end of the day, we're working toward an amazing finish line, one that will beat any amazing meal put before us!

I will enjoy my cupcakes, oh I will! I will enjoy good wine and amazing friends! Yet I have an even more amazing God, and through His Son, I have this abounding joy, now, and forever!

God be with you,
~Matthew

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Bragging Rights


Reading a familiar passage and getting a deeper understanding is as common as it is interesting and exciting; at least for me it is! However that excitement quickly changes to deepened thought that catches you off guard at times. For example, reading through the 1st chapter of Job today I was stopped in my tracks when I got to verse 8.

If you're not familiar with the story it might not be as impacting to you, but Job's character (of being a very godly and blameless man with much wealth and prosperity) was introduced. Then a council met, and God gave Satan the authority to test Job's faith (with some restrictions). You see, Satan said that if he lost the things that were close to him (family, wealth, health) that he would surely curse God and walk away. He said the only reason he still worshiped God is because he has never been tested. God didn't quite agree ...

Though in verse 8 it became very apparent apparent to me that Satan didn't come up with the idea to test Job's faith; God offered it up before Satan even asked!
And the LORD said to Satan, “Have you considered my servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, who fears God and turns away from evil?” (Job 1:8 ESV)
You could argue that God knew the idea (or request) would be forthcoming, but as I read that passage, it’s God who plants the seed about Job in Satan’s head. I can almost picture Job (if he was part of the council discussing this matter) responding “Doh! Don’t point that out!”. Perhaps though his character would welcome testing? Interesting thoughts.

A close friend of mine when discussing this responded that "God was bragging on Job!". Which got me thinking; would I want God bragging on me?

Satan, go ahead and test Matt, he's solid.
Satan, go ahead and take all that stuff away from him, he'll still worship Me.
Satan, go ahead and ruin his worldly possessions, you still can't shake his faith.
Satan, so long as he still breathes he will stay true to me.

Would I want God bragging on me?

I think that's the beauty of not being part of that council, I don't have to make that decision! He knows when, how, and by whom I can be tested ... and that I do trust.

In the meantime, I will continue to brag about my God!

~Matthew

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Don't Blame the Cook!



We as humans sure have a way with deflecting blame don't we? Through the years I have grown to learn that accepting responsibility for my actions is not only right, but also can help me grow. I'm hardly perfect, and sometimes find myself trying to avoid a finger pointed my way. I don't like to be wrong, and the bigger the issue, the more strength it takes standing up for what is right and accepting responsibility. However there are still times I find myself giving excuses for why I didn't do something the right way or behaved a certain way. Thankfully (or sadly depending on how you look at it), I can find my character all over Scripture and realize I am not alone.

So here is Adam in the garden after taking a bite of that apple, and facing judgement for it:
The man said, “The woman ... she gave me fruit of the tree, and I ate.”
Immediately deflecting blame he states that it's not my fault, it's hers! Now before you point out something, yes, I omitted a part of that Text for a reason. Read the complete verse and see that he not only blames Eve, but Someone else too:
The man said, “The woman [whom you gave to be with me], she gave me fruit of the tree, and I ate.”  (Genesis 3:12 ESV)
So not only is it Eve's fault, it was also God's fault in Adam's eyes as it was God after all that created this person that deceived Adam! Who cares if their partnership was exactly what Adam was looking for (Genesis 2:23), someone has to be blamed for this!

What really struck me when I read this was how I have in the past blamed God for similar things in my life, in particular my personality. One may try to argue that personalities develop over time based on your surroundings. Well, fine, I think in some cases yes. However raising four children, and already seeing so many different personalities, I feel some of it is how we have been knit together. And it is due to this that I think that I came to this conclusion:

Our God-given personalities aren't meant to give us an excuse for our behaviors; they are given to show the variety of ways we can bring Him glory.

I have a tendency to be anxious. I clearly disagree that God makes me anxious, but I'm not so convinced that He hasn't created me in a way that is sensitive to anxiety intentionally. It is through this perceived weakness that I have clung to Him deeper, witnessed to others who experience the same struggles, and have deepened my faith because of this; and thus grown in my freedom through Christ and my joy and understanding as well. He doesn't want me to be anxious, but He has shown me through my sensitivity to anxiety how to manage it better and share that with others.

I'm not going to blame God for my struggles and say I can't conquer them because "He made me that way". What He did is give me the strength to persevere and show others that amidst my perceived weaknesses I'm still strong in Him.

My prayer is that I continue to grow from making excuses for myself, to giving credit to Him ...

GLYASDI,
~Matthew

Monday, January 2, 2012

Seeing Past My Reflection

The idea that a child's behavior is a reflection of their parent is not something unheard of in society. While I have no research behind this statement, I would have to say that while there certainly are exceptions, the way we parent in my opinion does reflect in our children. Yet it can be very easy to be over critical of another parent when you see an emotional meltdown at a mall, or an ill tempered reaction by either party. So while it's not our place to judge, my point is simply that our children's reactions to reflect on us in some way; good, bad, or indifferent.

That's what I saw when reading through Luke 6:27-35 tonight. It's a very well known passage about loving our enemies; so well known that I would imagine we all can remember this even if we haven't opened our Bible since Sunday School. However, while the command is incredibly difficult in of itself, it ends with an equally strong point. After summarizing about what He commands us to do, He says:
"... and you will be sons of the Most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil."
(Luke 6:35b ESV)
I know that at times when I'm sending my children away to a sleepover, a friends house, a party, school, or something else coming up where I know they will be on their own making their own decisions, I remind them of what I expect. I don't remind them just about our rules or expected behavior, I remind them also of "why" we behave that way, and "why" these actions are expected. Do they always listen? Ha! I wouldn't be having these conversations if they did ... but we still have them.

And He wouldn't be writing these words if we didn't need the reminder either. We represent something far greater than ourselves. At the end of the day my desired reflection comes from Someone very specific, Jesus Christ; I have no universalist/unitarian beliefs. However, it's my character that is seen first by others, not my knowledge of the Word, Theology, or my support of the deity of Christ. Arming myself with information to have a gentle, loving, and open discussion about my faith is critical, but if I walk out the door acting like an idiot, mistreating my wife and kids, road raging, surfing for porn, and being short with people who are in the way of my daily agenda, my knowledge means nothing, absolutely nothing.

Which is why I'm looking forward to buffing that mirror more in 2012! Hoping to get it clean enough so I can see a little less of me, and a little more of Him. It took work for me to get my reflection out of the way in this picture so I could see past it to that beautiful smile behind! May we learn to get of the way and let His beauty shine through!

I wish you all a wonderful 2012, it's going to be a great year! Joy, tragedy, blessings, suffering, laughter, and tears will likely all be encountered, but I will take a deep breath and know that I will not encounter a single one alone. I leave you with this quote as we enter the new year:
Two lies the devil tells us:
(In a time of suffering) "This will never end"
(In a time of blessing) "This will never last"
- Steven Furtick
Reflect Him. Embrace Him.

God loves you and so do I,
~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