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)


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,

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!


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 ...

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