Thursday, December 5, 2013

The Verse Between


Reading through Philippians I come across a familiar passage:
Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice.
Reading further I come across another familiar passage:
do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Both verses I have often reflected on, and I'm sure we all have heard many sermons on these topics. Many perspectives on joy, rejoicing, anxiety, worry, prayer, thanksgiving, etc. have been told; and many of those words still resound in my heart as I reflect on them. Some beautiful and powerful teachings have resulted, however, it's the short verse between these two passages that caught my eye. Today as I began to get frustrated over some issues at work, I began getting more frustrated at the individuals, not the problem. I then broke for lunch and study and it was verse 5 that caught my eye ... the verse between.
Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. (Philippians 4:5a, ESV)
Some translations use "gentle spirit", "gentleness" or "moderation" ... it comes from the Greek word epieikēs. Suitable, equitable, fair, mild, or gentle, are words that can be used here. I really like the ESV translation as it speaks well to the word and the point. Paul is ending his letter with some final words of encouragement, and among these words he is reminding us to be gentle and reasonable.

When I get challenged (at work, home, spiritually, theologically, etc.) do I respond gently? Reasonably? This is not a call to be timid; I will stand for Truth. However there are two ways to respond; by flesh, or by Spirit.

Thank You Father for speaking to me ... and my my reasonableness be known to everyone.

Yours,
~Matthew

Monday, December 2, 2013

Peace; my Christmas Story

 
Today has been a bit busy.
OK, the last year has been a bit busy! Changes in work, school, and kids involved in more activities has left my usual reasonable schedule seemingly turned upside down. With Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Years upon me, and then multiple international business trips following, it certainly isn't something I see changing anytime soon. 
Not all is work or task related. Much of my schedule is family related, of which I am thankful. I continue to have plenty of time at home (I keep my hours quite reasonable, and can work if needed in the evenings from home), and make sure I'm around the home to be a husband to my wife, and a father to my children. I still enjoy being able to cook, hang out with my kids, and do other activities as well. I enjoy being able to get away to hunt, go on trips, and even have found more time with my wife to get some time alone out of the house. 
My alone time though, something I love, has been challenged lately. It may be running, quiet time in the Word, or with another book, or even a movie. Personally, I've struggled with my weight as well. I lost 45 plus pounds, felt great, but since have put back on 20 in the last year. If I want to be a good husband, father, and good to myself, I need to make sure I'm balancing my health and wellness too.
I just need some quiet time; some peace, you know? 
So that's when it hit me, sitting on the couch, staring at my Christmas tree. I don't need to find peace, I just need to accept it; it's a gift. The Christmas story echos much of my emotions. The Prince of Peace did not come while Mary was huddled next to her fireplace just waiting for that special moment of His birth. The Prince of Peace did not come when Joseph was finished with all his tasks and was just waiting and prepared to help his wife birth God Himself. This Prince of Peace did not come with family, friends, and the village around to help, welcome, and support this birth. The Prince of Peace came during a likely painful, stressful, and chaotic time in Mary and Joseph's life. Do you think God Himself could not arrange things differently? Then why didn't He? 
If Jesus was born in a palace, people would have said 'look what royalty can do'. If Jesus was born into a prominent family, people would have said 'look what fame can do'. If Jesus was born into a wealthy family, people would have said 'look what money can do'. Yet He was born through a teenage girl, likely rejected by so many, and during such a stressful journey with seemingly nothing going easy. People can look and say 'look what God can do'. - Kyle Idleman
It's not the quiet meditation that relaxes me, it's Jesus. It's not deep breathing exercises, it's resting in His arms. It's not calm planning details of my week, it's fully submitting and trusting Him. It's not me at all ... it's Him.
One day, one step, one choice at a time. To God be the glory. I am so thankful for the way this Christmas story played out. I'm so thankful that He proves that peace is not situational. I don't need to find peace, I already have it in Him. I can and will continue to seek time alone when I can, but when I can't, I still have Him.
Lord, I pray you carry me through yet another day. May I stop, reflect, and share your goodness and love as I experience the blessings I so often don't take time to see. Guide me one day, one step, one choice at a time, and may I have the courage to follow your leading ...
His,
~Matthew
PS, this lovely Christmas Tree above is not from this year, but last. This years' tree is still only half decorated; something else to do! However as I finish the tree this year with the kids, it's now a reminder to me, not a task. I love Christmas.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Faith Like a Child


So earlier today, while the day started out wonderful (as Sunday morning usually does) it got a bit frustrating for me due to some various small things that built up. The frustrations were surrounded by issues that were, as usual, so insignificant that it's not even worth taking the time to write them down. However, as I stand against the counter pondering how frustrated I was (now becoming frustrated that I couldn't stop being frustrated) I looked at my middle daughter and asked, "How do you go back to being so joyful after being frustrated?". She looked at me, half puzzled, and asked "You mean, are you asking for you? Because I'm good at it?". "Yes", I answered, "How do you go from being 'mad' to 'glad' so well?" She looked at me, and with hardly missing a beat (though she gave me the look of honest reflection for a moment which I love so much) simply answered:

"Well, when I'm mad, I realize that I don't want to be with the devil. Not for a day, an hour, not even one minute do I want to spend time with him. So, I just choose to be with Jesus again. That's how."

This girl is absolutely amazing. She's hardly perfect, and has her own struggles, but she is so full of faith and love for Christ it is impossible to miss.
"Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.” (Luke 18:17 ESV) 
Choice; simple choice. I, who Spiritually lead and guide her, went to my room in thanksgiving. With a smile beaming on my face, realizing not only what a wonderful child and sister in Christ I have in her, but realizing also that rather than leaning on a counter pondering wasted thoughts, I could have resolved this an hour ago on my knees.
Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. (James 4:7 ESV) 
I think she has this verse well understood ...


No guilt in life, no fear in death,
This is the power of Christ in me;
From life's first cry to final breath.
Jesus commands my destiny.
 
No power of hell, no scheme of man,
Can ever pluck me from His hand;
Till He returns or calls me home,
Here in the power of Christ I'll stand.
 
"In Christ Alone"
Words and Music by Keith Getty & Stuart Townend

Friday, November 29, 2013

Different Perspectives


 

As a parent, I care for my children, feed them, pick up after them, take them to the doctors, watch after their hygiene, teach them, lead them, protect them, and pray for them. I cry with them, laugh with them, and sometimes just listen to them. I hug them, kiss them, share love and guidance with them, and more often that I wish was necessary, I apologize to them. I tell them that they are loved, and even beyond the capacity of how I know how to love, they are loved so much more by God.

Yet as children, sometimes they seem to measure our love by how we respond to their requests and wishes beyond what we do to care for them. Even if we see something past their sight, and make judgement calls based on our wisdom and what we feel is best, we are sometimes looked on with frustrated glances, emotional outbursts, and possibly even rejection. Even some of the most healthy and loving relationships have moments of frustration, confusion, and doubt.
Our relationship with our heavenly Father is sadly similar.
We seem to cry out to God when we feel overburdened with life, as if we are waiting for Him to show up. Yet in truth, He was and is always there.
Oh how much He cares for us beyond what we seem to measure from our requests. How often He is judged, misunderstood, and even rejected because these supplications (however reasonable they may seem) are not met. I pray this Thanksgiving season that you are blessed with the opportunity to reflect on His amazing care for us even when our requests seem to be unheard.

They are heard. And you are loved.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Wasting Time


How often my brothers and sisters when questioned, challenged, or provoked about your faith, have you rushed to respond and defend? How often has anxiety, frustration, or pride, stirred emotions in you that are not of God? Was it righteous anger, or was it really just pride? Satan may try to put us on trial, but we have already been redeemed; rest in that.

Your intellect and reasoning will not cause a conversion, only the Holy Spirit can move like that. You have nothing in you that has any real power. You want to be powerful?  Die; die to self, be used, and let the Holy Spirit move in you and through you. You are a tool, not the Tool Maker.
Do you have someone in your life right now that is provoking you? Do you have a situation in your life that is causing you to rehearse conversations in your head, play out scenarios, and waste precious life on things out of your control? Do you have people close to you that judge you, ignore you, and possibly even hate you (with a smile)?
You need no affirmation from them, only Jesus Christ.
but Jesus went to the Mount of Olives. Early in the morning he came again to the temple. All the people came to him, and he sat down and taught them. The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery, and placing her in the midst they said to him, “Teacher, this woman has been caught in the act of adultery. Now in the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. So what do you say?” This they said to test him, that they might have some charge to bring against him. Jesus bent down and wrote with his finger on the ground. And as they continued to ask him, he stood up and said to them, “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.” And once more he bent down and wrote on the ground. But when they heard it, they went away one by one, beginning with the older ones, and Jesus was left alone with the woman standing before him. Jesus stood up and said to her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more.” (John 8:1-11)
Like Jesus, next time you get questioned (or even attacked), take a moment, draw in the sand, relax in the affirmation of Who's you are, and respond in love and Truth. If they don't listen; move on. Life is a gift and a mission; no need to waste time worrying about things (or people) that are out of your control. Get on your knees, thank Him for all your blessings, and daily give Him your baggage that you've accumulated.


“Why are we surprised when problems arise? Everything’s wrong until Jesus sets it right.” – AW Tozer

His,
~Matthew

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Eyes of Our Heart

How often have some waited for a sign of hope?
How often have some wished for a plate a little less empty?
How often have some longed for that powerful friend and comforter?

I am reminded through Paul's letter to the church in Ephesus that Hope, Inheritance, and Power are before us if we simply open the eyes of our hearts.
"having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might" (Ephesians 1:18-19 ESV)
“I want to live so that I am truly submitted to the Spirit's leading on a daily basis. Christ said its better for us that the Spirit came and I want to live like that is true. I don't want to keep crawling when I have the ability to fly.”  - Francis Chan, Forgotten God

This is at the heart of our Christian life; living, not surviving. Chan also remarked in the same book that it's difficult to say He is our Comforter if we're always comfortable. The Christian life is indeed not marked by comfort, but it certainly is marked by joy. So often we have this idea that joy is lost or transactioned in exchange for suffering and sacrifice.

When I read His Word I see sacrificial living, not joyless living.

I pray that our hearts can be opened, so that through sacrifice, we can experience His immeasurable joy in our daily living. Through an open and enlightened heart, we can find our Hope, trust in our inheritance, and rest in His powerful arms.

And enjoy the song ... and smile ... :)

His,
~Matt

Metrics

I found that I have my own "metrics" that God gave me that can help in identifying my overall health. Also, as I found, when we wander from His Path and feel lost, we very well may not be as lost as we think we are.



His,
~Matt

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Purging ...

Today I'm focusing on purging some things in particular from my life, mostly surrounding the struggle I have with control. My first reaction is to say that this is not an overnight change. However done correctly, I turn this over to the Holy Spirit, and I have absolute confidence that He can regenerate me in a moment.

Much of the disconnection I've been facing lately regarding my spiritual, emotional, and physical health has been surrounding this issue of control. I glean no joy from control, only bitterness, and yet I keep returning to this empty well expecting it to bring peace and life, when the only one that can do that is God Himself.

So I start my day with another beautiful run and even a couple children to join me on it. As I sit here in the park realizing how much beautiful time I have wasted trying to control situations rather than enjoying Him, I feel his refreshing forgiveness and love shining down on me.

His,
Matthew

Matthew 6:27 (ESV)
And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?


Friday, September 6, 2013

Trimming the Fat

So after going back and forth for a long time, I decided I needed a break from most of my virtual world. Twitter, Facebook, Google+ (yes, that still exists), Instagram, etc. Spiritually, emotionally, and physically I needed to push the reset button and get back to the foundations and rebuild. I need to trim the fat from my life, in more ways than one!

In a nutshell, I was being a poor steward of the time I was being given.

I was missing my time with Him.
I was not taking care of my health.
I was letting the flesh triumph.

Short but beautiful and fun run this morning
I was doing some great things ... but ...
 “‘I know your works, your toil and your patient endurance, and how you cannot bear with those who are evil, but have tested those who call themselves apostles and are not, and found them to be false. I know you are enduring patiently and bearing up for my name's sake, and you have not grown weary. But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first." (Revelation 2:2-4 ESV)
So I find myself coming back to my first love; God the Father, Jesus His Son, and the amazing and beautiful Divine Person; the holy Ghost.

This day of rejuvenation has been beautiful, and I finally feel that things are beginning to fall in place again. Thanks Only to the Foundation that I lay in Christ Jesus ... what a wonderful Savior.

Being Filled ...

~Matthew

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

An Unbalanced Transaction

Photo Generated from www.wordle.net
What are the things that capture the intentions of my heart? What brings me excitement, what do I long to do, and what financial and social sacrifices do I make for some of these things? What stirs my imagination, what drives me, and what is powerful enough to distract me from other things I'm doing? What tempts me? What if my walls could talk? What if my wallet could talk?
"Those who pay regard to vain idols forsake their hope of steadfast love." Jonah 2:8 (ESV) 
The phrase steadfast love above comes from the translation of the word checed (as pronounced). Other translations use such words as faithfulness, kindness, and even mercy. The transaction between the hope of steadfast love, mercy, and kindness (something everlasting) and vanity (something temporary) is not balanced, yet all too often I stand at the counter and complete the sale.

We all engage in many activities, but what in my life goes beyond engagement? What thing has placed its yoke upon me and is directing me away from the Cross? Keeping me for the contentment and joy that I always find when I get closer to Him? That verse resounds quite loudly; may I never walk away, and forsake something eternal, for the temporary.

Father, I ask that I don't have to be in the belly of a whale, in the pit of my life, before I cry out those words. Inscribe them upon my heart now as a reminder, and may the Spirit of Truth guide me into Your understanding; Your will for my life.

His,
~Matthew

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Out of This World

It has been far too long since I gazed up at the stars, planets, and amazing creations that stand before us. It gives me such an amazing perspective; not how small I am, but how big God is. Lately however, the "Out of This World" experience that it gives me has become far less fascinating and real than other observations, namely the ones I see in His Word.
"Then he showed me Joshua the high priest standing before the angel of the LORD, and Satan standing at his right hand to accuse him." (Zechariah 3:1 ESV)
When I reflect on being before the judgement seat of Christ, I imagine standing before the Father, with His Son, my Savior, at my side. I rest in the loving knowledge that He will say to the Father, "This one I know" (Mt 10:32). Yet I have not imagined standing in a spiritual courtroom with God as well as the opposition, Satan, pointing his finger at me in accusation.

Without Christ, this is a fearful encounter indeed.
"Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the LORD, and Satan also came among them." (Job 1:6 ESV)
Here again we see mischief and evil intent being played out in a spiritual realm. The battle that wages against our souls is not [just] one of worldly attacks, but also occurs outside of what we know. In the spiritual courts of His world, the players are many, and the stakes high. While we may stand hedged in the protection of God's own Son, let us not forget that the finger of Satan remains on us; pointing in accusation.
 
I pray I continue to abide in Him and His provision and protection.

Father, may I never forget the magnitude of this battle we are in. I pray you lead others who are searching for Truth to myself and others that call upon Your name. May we meet them with understanding, humility, and love. Your gift of salvation is not head knowledge for us to keep to ourselves, but to share the knowledge of Your Son to others. Open doors, create opportunities, and give us the strength to stand ready to share when needed. May not our words reflect Your Son, but may our entire life. In the mighty name of Christ we pray.
 
Living Out of This World,
~Matthew
 
 

Monday, August 5, 2013

New Perspectives

 
Having the ability to see a situation from a different perspective can be an amazing opportunity for growth. At times, unless we choose to intentionally see otherwise, observation becomes very stagnant. We've heard it as children when our parents told us to imagine wearing their shoes, we've heard it when we were given advice from friends, and we've even given out this advice to others. However how often do we really practice that ourselves?
When I see a friend get disturbing test results from the doctor, do I encourage him with cliche phrases, or do I sit and empathise with him?
There are a lot of needs, and we simply don't have the capacity to honestly and truly support as many people as we would like. In an age of social networking, and seeing updates from hundreds (or even thousands) of people, taking time to honestly reflect, pray for, and walk with everyone is just impossible.

Jesus can, we can not.

That doesn't mean that distance or even relational depth is a barrier to those individuals, I just think we really need to listen to His guidance on when to act, and to whom we act with. There are times I am called to walk with someone close to me, and there have been times I've exchanged words, e-mails, and written communication with others I hardly knew before I was called to speak to them.
Having another perspective comes when we are in relationship with someone who will bring that new perspective. If we live our lives in our comfortable world, those new perspectives (some scary) will remain comfortably pushed away. We are His Hands and feet, and we need to remember (I need to remember) that if I want a new perspective, I need to find someone in need that will give me one.
These perspectives and situations that are waiting for us are not limited to situations of grief and sadness (something my anxiety makes me believe). At times, we will enter the trenches, pop our head up, and look around (like my son examining the prairie dogs!) and find something new; a new friend, a new insight, a new experience.
Father, I pray I draw from your strength and embrace new relational challenges. I fear too much still, and it only shows how much I need You. Help me hold firm to your promises, call me to Yourself, and guide me in a direction of your choosing. May Your light be shined as I journey through this world, and may I meet new challenges with excitement, not fear. As I gain new perspectives myself, may those I encounter also gain new perspectives too; Yours.
His,
~Matthew

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Throttling Up ...


This photo (courtesy of my wife on her recent trip to see a friend) was likely taken during this short flight's cruising altitude. The takeoff routine and all the checklist items were now done, and since landing is still in the future, the present state is filled with ... well ... just maintaining.

I feel like Spiritually the last 60 days for me has been my 38,000 feet; my cruising altitude.
Unfortunately I don't say that in a soaring high kind of way. I unfortunately mean that my Spiritual life has lacked growth, commitment, and sadly obedience. This type of life in fact is hardly cruising with the jets rocking and rolling, but more like a gentle glide ... downward.

As a husband and father, I could tell you of some wonderful success stories. These past 60 days have been wonderful in many areas. However I've neglected my own relationship with my Father, and even myself.

Work clearly has been a factor, not an excuse, but a factor. I've always done well, even with a busy schedule, to maintain a healthy balance; not so much these last few months. I've not been in His Word on a regular basis, I've lost a good running cadence, and I've lacked on my nutrition terribly. Spiritually, Physically, and Nutritionally I've sat back and acted like the years of hard work would keep the engines going strong. I know better.

Besides, the stronger my relationship is with Him, the better I am as a husband and father anyway.

Thankfully though, the Lord is not just forgiving, but encouraging. So many times I have felt His loving call on my heart, as He has tried to penetrate the thick wall of "stuff" surrounding me. He makes me smile, laugh, and feel His peace each time I even think upon Him!

I have always prayed above all else that He simply keeps calling me to Himself, and the desire to be close to Him is something that has never left me. Why I struggle to carve out the time is crazy, but the desire is always strong, and for that, I am eternally thankful.

So as I wake up from a bit of a slumber, and look forward to getting back on His Path, Daily I suggest you take a look at your altimeter as well. Perhaps you lost some altitude, and this cruise control you thought you had on was more of a slow descending glide. If so, you're not alone ... but let's make the next decision a right one ... and let's do it together.

Throttling Up ...

His,
~Matt

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Building Hypomonē


My son was sharing with me what he read today in Scripture, which was the first chapter in Peter's second letter.  As the passage described our growing faith, our calling, and some of the building blocks for a life marked by Christ, the term patient endurance came up (v6, emphasis added)
In view of all this, make every effort to respond to God’s promises. Supplement your faith with a generous provision of moral excellence, and moral excellence with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with patient endurance, and patient endurance with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love for everyone. (2 Peter 1:5-7 NLT)


My ESV translation uses the word steadfastness, but his, and I think quite accurately, translated the word (hypomonē) to patient endurance.

When I think of patience, I often think of something passive; simply waiting. While I have certainly pondered this idea, which in actuality is hardly passive, I have not thought about this other type of patience (under load, trial, or testing of my endurance) nearly as much as I ought.

Today, as my son and I were on our run, I needed to give him some encouragement (and a bit of pushing!) about halfway through the run. I tried relate this during our talk, that while he was eagerly awaiting the end of a run that was rather difficult for him today, he continued to patiently endure the load until the task was completed and the run was at an end. Focusing on the burden (how much longer do I have?) wouldn't have been helpful, but focusing on the finish line, and our encourager is, even while we are under a load.

     Follow Me

These two words that Jesus spoke (multiple times) are some of the most difficult words to put into action. Following Christ can lead to a testing of our faith, that only through patient endurance will we find our journey through.

Today I prayed for someone who walked away from Christ; and it was a departure of the emotions, not mind. Prayers were not answered and circumstances did not turn out in their favor; so they walked away. May my roots always be deep, strong, and firmly planted in His Soil.

Through the trials of life, I want my walk be marked by patient endurance. After all, I have a race to finish; I just need to focus on my Encourager.

His,
~Matthew

Friday, May 17, 2013

Is this my Lion?


"And no one in heaven or on earth or under the earth was able to open the scroll or to look into it, and I began to weep loudly because no one was found worthy to open the scroll or to look into it. And one of the elders said to me, “Weep no more; behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has conquered, so that he can open the scroll and its seven seals."
(Revelation 5:3-5 ESV)


When I read this passage, and put my heart into it, I get chills! The picture it paints of His holiness, power, love, worthiness, and so many more adjectives come to mind. The idea that this Lion of Judah, who is the only One worthy, ultimately powerful, chose to love me personally is just humbling.

So I excitedly went on a journey to find a picture of a Lion to capture this fire, power, and fear!

Roar!

     Do you know how difficult that was to do?!

I first went through my own pictures that I have (one of them is above). However he looked far too tame! So I went to search the internet, and even started looking for pictures just of the eyes of the lion, to capture that fierce lion look that I was trying to find. However so many of the pictures that came up showed this same personality that I captured; calm, cool, collected, and dare I say tame!

          Perhaps ... Meek?

I sat, though, and then realized; this is my lion.

Would I want to wrestle with this tame creature I see above? Hardly; it would tear me apart! I began to realize that this passion I sought to find in the picture was not power, but wrath. Oh, He will bring wrath, as does this lion. However this lion is not in a constant state of wrath, and neither is He.

This is my Lion ... this is my Lord.

Oh what comfort it brings me to know I stand behind a calm, cool, collected Lion. One capable of the ultimate wrath; yet one that shows the ultimate love.

May I seek to learn more from this Lion; oh how much I have to learn ...

His,
~Matthew

Monday, April 29, 2013

Progress Bars



So as I eat lunch today, still seeing this image, I thought I'd share some of my thoughts from this morning. The image above (the one that I have been staring at for over two hours!) is as you probably know, a progress bar. Waiting ... waiting ... and more waiting ...

It was a rather long morning, and still this task is not done! However, it offered some time to reflect on this strange little green moving rectangle. What is my progress bar? How am I progressing?

"Command and teach these things. Let no one despise you for your youth, but set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity. Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation, to teaching. Do not neglect the gift you have, which was given you by prophecy when the council of elders laid their hands on you. Practice these things, immerse yourself in them, so that all may see your progress. Keep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching. Persist in this, for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers."  (1 Timothy 4:11-16 ESV, emphasis added of course for my focus)
As you may know, these are words written by the Apostle Paul, to his friend, mentee, and brother in Christ, Timothy. His words are encouraging, not heavy handed, and illustrates a beautiful picture on youth, growth, gifts, and progress. The questions I ask myself from this passage are simply:

What are my gifts?
          What am I devoting myself to?

                    Are they matching up?

It seems like the answer to these questions can help me fill up that progress bar of life ... my calling ... my purpose. The joy of knowing that by keeping this focus not only saves myself, but could potentially save some around me.

What are your God-given gifts? Where is your devotion?

Focusing ... matching ... and progressing ...

His,
~Matt

Friday, April 26, 2013

Rest and Reconciliation


Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. (Matthew 11:28 ESV)


Rest? I love how Noah Webster defines it in his 1828 dictionary: "Quiet; repose; a state free from motion or disturbance; a state of reconciliation to God."

a state of reconciliation to God

Amen! It is so much more than (if not at all) physical rest!

I recently (over the past couple weeks) have been feeling quite burdened. I felt like no matter what I did I just could not catch up; at home, at work, in my personal life. However after spending some time with a brother and sister in Christ, I quickly realized that I just kept trying to get water from my own empty well (again). I kept trying to dig deep into something that just was not there. Sitting with them and simply talking about the beauty and majesty of Christ, our walks, and how He is speaking in our life rejuvenated me! I realized my fault, and handed the bucket over to Him again, to fill me with water from a Well that never goes dry.

I reconciled again with God.

I found my rest. And I feel refreshed.

Rest in Him, and drink!

His,
~Matt

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Nice Shoes!

 

Leaving the grocery store this evening I hear someone walk by me and comment, "Nice shoes!"

Oh no! I immediately think I forgot to slip on my shoes again and left the house in my slippers! This would not be the first time. I look down, and guess what? To my surprise, no slippers! I was wearing shoes! Yay! However, I can't say there is anything quite amazing about my simple black work shoes. So while perplexed at this strange encounter, I simply look up and give a 'thank you'. I hear right back, "You're welcome!" along with a smile.

As I followed the two individuals out of the store (one of which made the comment) I realized by the conversation that the one who spoke to me seemed to have what apparently is called special needs. Just the words, tone, pattern, and expressiveness seem to indicate this. I could go in more depth, but it's pointless to my point (if that makes sense).

This was my third time today being around someone with special needs. Earlier I was privileged to sit and chat for a while with another young man. Perhaps I'm behind the times and there is another term that society likes to label people with, but I do understand the spirit of the term. Certain individuals require more care than others, I get this. I also am very aware that certain individuals have significant conditions that require them to be quite dependant on others for help, I get this. I understand that some conditions are so intensive that it puts a tremendous amount of strain on the individual and family members around them, I get this. However there is such a wide range of conditions and I really think this term makes so many get placed with a label that makes them sound more consuming than giving.

I didn't drive home from the grocery store with a smile pondering the random word of kindness from someone who was lacking something. I drove home from the grocery store with a smile pondering the random word of kindness from someone who had something to offer.
As he passed by, he saw a man blind from birth. And his disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” Jesus answered, “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him. (John 9:1-3 ESV)


I didn't encounter someone with special needs, I encountered someone with whom God works through. I experienced untainted care, joy, and love.

I have special needs too ... I need some more of what that person had to offer.

His,
~Matthew

Sunday, February 17, 2013

A Leap of Faith?



I've often heard the call of Abram (in Genesis 12) described as Abram's leap of faith, and his great trust in God. While I don't mean to correct any of that, I just see something even greater.

The story is "not" God commanding Abram to move, and Abram obeying and moving. Not? Yes, not. The middle part is awfully important.

I will show you (v1)
I will make you (v2)
I will bless you (v3/4)

Then he packs up and leaves. A "leap of faith", or very simple trust in God and an amazing blessing of ears to hear Him fully? God didn't leave him wondering of an outcome. Were the full plans disclosed, not entirely. However isn't it enough to simply know that He will show you, make you, and bless you? Who cares about the rest?

I wonder how many times I felt His Spirit stirring in my heart and I only listened long enough to hear just a part of His message. I wonder if I missed not only His calling, but His words of encouragement and promise. Perhaps many of these leaps of faith in our life are not leaps into a dark unknown, but into a very bright and safe place.

I guess that's why it's a journey with a lamp at our feet, not a blindfolded game of hopscotch.

I need to stop playing hopscotch ...
~Matthew

Friday, February 8, 2013

Work; not such a bad word


What is work? Raising a family is a lot of work, and having 4 children myself I can attest to that! However, I hope you can say as easy as I can, that it is also a gift. While it certainly takes time (and money) it pays back beyond measure.

However, when I think of work I often think about my job.

What about Adam? No, not your friend, I mean Adam. Before the fruit was eaten in the garden, what was Adam's job? Did you ever ponder that? I guess I always pictured this Utopian lifestyle of picking fruit, jumping in rivers, and enjoying a life of complete freedom.

Not quite ...

I've always had this idea that due to sin we were now meant to toil and labor and carry this burden of work. While that is partially true, that post-fall we made things more difficult on ourselves, the idea of work was always part of God's plan for us. It never really hit me until now as I read yet again through the second chapter of Genesis that Adam's role, before the fall, included him working.
The LORD God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it. (Genesis 2:15 ESV)
Work: `abad (labor, work, serve)
Keep: shamar (keep charge, watch, protect)

Work isn't a punishment. It's a gift from God.

One question that enters my mind (and maybe yours) is simply: Do ya know though what I do?!

I know, it may feel at times that while God picked this role for Adam, that our roll doesn't seem so glorious. However no matter if this job is a stepping stone, a final position, or we are currently unable or searching for work, His plan is still His plan, no matter how it may seem. I've heard and I will continue to remember this saying:

You never know when you're going to step into the moment for which God has been preparing you.

You may think that your job is just another job, but I know you (and I) are there for a reason. Let us shine our light while we serve graciously. Trust me, these words are a reminder for myself, I need them ...

Working Graciously,
~Matthew

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Build and Prepare


Visiting Nanjing I experienced many things that will stay with me for the rest of my life. As with anything, some were positive, some negative, some beautiful, some heartbreaking, and some just worth sitting and thinking about for a while. One of the more simple yet profound memories I had was the amount of construction that I saw ... everywhere! Building after building was going up, in and out of the cities. The reason is hardly surprising as with a growing country in an absolute economic explosion, there is much demand for growth as people and businesses migrate to the city.

They are preparing. They are building.

Regarding John the Baptist ...
And he will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God, and he will go before him in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make ready for the Lord a people prepared.” (Luke 1:16-17 ESV)
... to make ready for the Lord a people prepared.

Am I prepared? Am I preparing? ... or am I just waiting?

Pastor and author Rick Warren recounted his father's dying words ...
As Warren's dad seemed about to succumb, he shot up and struggled to get out of bed, repeating, "Got to save one more for Jesus!" nearly a hundred times; in his dying hour, he turned it into a directive to his son: "Save one more for Jesus!"
The desire to do more for Christ should never be followed by guilt, but the thought that I've done enough for Christ should never be in my heart either. May I continue to draw from Him, Scripture, and other passionate followers, and may we spur eachother on as we have much work to do.

Let us never forget that this 'work', is not a burden, and His 'yoke' that we put on ourself is always light. If it feels heavy, and the joy of living is seemingly overtaken by His 'tasks' that we try to accomplish, we're doing it wrong.

I will prepare.
I will build.
I will work.

And all the while I will rest in Him ...

~Matthew

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Rest!

Rest is more than sleeping or relaxing. Rest is simply a place of being content and at peace (no matter what my situation). This photo of Amelia and I running the Warrior Dash together is just one of many examples of what I can call rest. We just finished our "race" and I was tired, muddy, and leaving with a rib injury, but I was resting! Resting in the fact that it was great to spend her 16th birthday doing this together. Great that we got to get away just the three of us (my wife, her, and I). It was a filled weekend, scheduled, but I was at rest.


I could also try and draw some pictures mentally for other times when I was at rest. Some in tears alone in a corner praying, some on my couch with a book, or some mowing the lawn outside. Either case, I don't associate busy or saddness with not being at rest.

However I got a bit away from that in my life ...

So while I don't follow some of the traditional calendars or timing that accompany what some Christian denominations call Lent, I am preparing to enter a period of fasting that I look forward to each year as we draw closer to Easter. Usually I don't discuss what I am fasting from, as that is between God and I (and perhaps a few friends that I feel guided to help and share with), but I will share the focus. And this year my focus will be on finding that "Rest" again; daily.
  • During a very busy time at work, I will seek Him and His rest.
  • Being a father of 4, with a toddler and the others in three different schools, I will seek Him and His rest.
  • Wanting to take time and hone my music skills as I continue to give this gift back to him, I will seek Him and His rest.
  • Wanting to make sure I stay on top of my health and fitness goals, I will seek Him and His rest.
  • During a time of changing some things financially, and the work that it takes, I will seek Him and His rest.
  • Resting in Him as I continue to try and be the husband I am called to be to my amazing, loving, and supportive wife ...
Rest

This is nothing strange to me, as during some of my more difficult times in life, I have been graced with His presence, peace, and rest. Trials or not, He is still God, and He still provides. However in the last several months I have gotten a bit off track and began to try and take control again; something that provides something far from rest.

Reading this passage last night, it actually brought a couple tears to my eyes ...
And their eyes were opened, and they recognized him. And he vanished from their sight. They said to each other, “Did not our hearts burn within us while he talked to us on the road, while he opened to us the Scriptures? (Luke 24:31-32 ESV) 
Why tears? Because it reminded me of how many times I am in the presence of Christ and fail to see Him because I'm so focused on my own thoughts and agenda. There are few things more painful to me than missed opportunities to share Christ, and missed opportunities to experience Christ are much the same. They are missed opportunities to rest in Him.

May this beautiful period of fasting, prayer, and reflection be fruitful for you as well!

Even if your denomination doesn't speak much of fasting, it is indeed a beautiful thing. Perhaps you don't even know this Jesus I'm speaking of beyond empty words on a page ... there is a beautiful introduction waiting to happen! I pray all of our eyes will be opened this coming season.

Resting,
~Matthew

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Spiritual Naps

I feel like I just woke up from a long Spiritual nap! My journey with Him over the last few months has been good, but far too distant. I feel like I have been more on cruise control and asleep at the wheel than actively involved in His life He gave me. So as I rub my eyes and yawn, I will say it's good to be awake!

Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord. [15] See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no "root of bitterness" springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled Hebrews 12:14-15

πικρία (pikria) in Greek comes with multiple descriptions, but none very pleasant! The translation chosen by most is as you read in verse 15, bitterness.

Do you have any bitter roots springing up on your spiritual garden causing trouble? Choking out other plants? Producing bitter fruit? Have you even did a check lately?

I haven't - and I do.

I haven't let Him tend to my garden much lately, and there is much pruning to do; both on the surface, and in the soil beneath. I have no shovel, no tiller, no chemicals that will be able to destroy these; but I do have Christ.

So I have been given notice, and I hand over control again to the One Gardener who can fix this. I feel almost embarrassed looking out at all my weeds and roots popping up. Yet He just smiles back at me just happy that I called on Him for the job.

Not because of who I am, but because of what You've done.
Not because of what I've done, but because of who You are.

Father, I stand covered in Crimson White.
Father, I stand in Grace only Your Son can provide.
Father, I stand sinful, yet faultless before The Throne by Your Gift.
And so Father, I will stand in joy!


Waking Up,
~Matthew
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