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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