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 epieik─ôs. 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

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