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I wrote an unpublished blog.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 

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