Monday, November 17, 2014

The Real Reason


My first and only luge trip was quite an adventure! While the story ended with me hitting the ice for a few runs, it began with fear! Quite a bit of it too! High speeds and just having to trust that the track will do its job ... and not kill me in the meantime! It ... was ... fast! Perhaps not as fast as it could have been, as I wasn't exactly showing perfect form, but it was plenty fast enough for me!

At first, I decided that being a spectator would be far more enjoyable than being a participant ... :)

However, after some pressure from friends (and my son!) I managed to find my courage and get to that staircase. As I finally made my way up, I tried not to think too much about it. I laid down on the sled, wondered what in the world I was doing, and pushed off!

What a rush!

I will admit I did have the lingering feeling that I was going to die! Perhaps heart attack, perhaps tumbling around on the ice at 900 mph, or perhaps I was going to launch off the track into the woods and down the hill. Perhaps I was never going to stop; however that managed not to be the case surprisingly enough. Thankfully at that speed the thoughts of death didn't linger too much as I got to the end pretty quickly, and alive to boot!

Fear can stop us from a lot. For me, it would have been an amazing luge experience with my son. For others, the fear can stop us from things far more critical ...
"Nevertheless, many even of the authorities believed in [Jesus], but for fear of the Pharisees they did not confess it, so that they would not be put out of the synagogue" (John 12:42 ESV, emphasis added)
Fear kept them away from the Savior of the World. Fear about being put out of the synagogue was driving their decisions. Fear was containing them, restraining them, and paralyzing them.

Powerful indeed ... but in this case, that's really not the true reason.

No? What is then?

Well, just like life I think the real reasons often lie deeper. Fear is a reaction to something, not a cause. I wasn't fearful because the luge was fast ... I was fearful because I wasn't in control.

If you want to know what the real reason is in this passage, you need not look further than the very next verse ...
"for they loved the glory that comes from man more than the glory that comes from God." (John 12:43 ESV)
This isn't an issue about church membership, social status, money, or security. It's certainly not about Truth or belief, as that's already been made clear. Additionally, it's not even about fear. It's about something far more profound. Far more damaging. Far more soul destroying.

Pride. Love of self.

It can sneak up on each one of us in an instant. Get alone with God. Examine yourself. Purge that pride at all costs as it's a cancer of the soul ... it goes before destruction ...

In Jesus name, may you and I find freedom from this wicked weapon of the enemy.

Oh sweet Grace ...

Stay strong and true to Him,
~Matthew

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Less, More; More Less?



Just taking a few of my privileges, blessings, and opportunities as an example for a discussion.

  • We have a nice small, warm, and cozy home (complete with a lovely fireplace) in a safe neighborhood. This provides more than enough for our needs.
  • We serve His body at a local church that has strengthened us and helped us bear and share His fruit, individually, as a couple, and as a family.
  • We hold classical season tickets to the Detroit Symphony Orchestra. This provides my wife and I time to connect as a husband and wife to help keep our relationship aflame.
  • I have a job that respects my family life and pays enough to support it and we never struggle with putting food on our table.
  • We have the blessing and opportunity to educate and direct our children, including giving them an opportunity to expand in artistic ways with dance and music.
  • We have a camper to make memories with as a family (our home away from home). This provides us some time to vacation away (affordable) from home and explore more of His amazing creation. Plenty for us as a family to experience this world, grow closer together, and simply pull away to have some "fun".

If all I ever had was that, I should be forever content.

Yet I still have so much more. Other material possessions, opportunities, more hobbies and gadgets than I have time to fully enjoy, reliable vehicles, a basement filled with toys, board games, and other stuff that seems to at times become forgotten. A garage filled with outdoor games, bikes, model rockets, fishing gear, hunting gear, and tools to tinker around the house. I have enough electronic gadgets to make the most focused person struggle with attention deficit issues, and countless other random 'things' ...

These are not bad things. There are just so many of them ...

Then with all these things, what do I sometimes struggle with? Balance. Balancing to find the time to jam all these things into my life. It almost sounds insane.

I don't need more time, more money, or more things to do; I need less things and use my time to focus on them more.

I don't need to impress my children, wife, friends, or even myself with accomplishments, travel check-boxes, impressive gifts, acquiring more things so my kids don't 'get bored', arranging play time, activities, and constant business so that it divides our family. I need to fan into flame a spirit of contentment in me and my family with what we have. Wash them with the Word, love, encouragement, and let them experience in a busy, crazy, and chaotic world that less indeed is more.

It's not about being lazy; hardly. It's about seeking where we are called and investing our time in those things. Enjoy the occasional distraction and getaway, but dive into our gifts, passions, and talents. Share them for His glory, and we will be blessed in return. It's not about devoting hours of our lives a week to our favorite team, show, book series, or video game. If you think it's enjoyable to sit down and watch TV for 3 hours in the evening, I advise you to sit and ponder your gifts, talents, and passion ... find where they intersect and do whatever that ends up being. Then if you give 3 hours to that instead? Wow. Lasting joy with happiness to boot ... you won't miss your show my friend.

Too tired? That's just a lie you are being told keeping you from growth ...

Join me on a journey to simplify and power up our lives with Purpose.

His,
~Matt

(Side note: I know some of my friends struggle with work in particular. A job that seems to demand 14 hours a day, 6/7 days a week and leaves you utterly exhausted, and this post is almost impossible to shape with your life. However, I wish I could speak into that as well, but alas I can't at this moment. I'd love to chat over coffee and give you my ear. But in the meantime I pray that you find some relief, rest, and time for Him along the way. May it pass soon ... )

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Our Feet Get Dirty


My wife and I were conversing this morning over a passage in John 13 when Jesus washed the disciples' feet. Many conversations have I heard on servitude and humility around this passage. So much is to be seen and learned from this passage. However I was reminded of another Truth when Jesus looked at Simon Peter and said:
“The one who has bathed does not need to wash, except for his feet, but is completely clean. And you are clean ...” (John 13:10 ESV)
Jesus wasn't having a teachable moment on obvious sanitary practices, but He was and is always teaching for those who have ears to hear. Jesus was not simply informing him ... He was reminding him that he was already transformed.

We stand righteous and blameless before the Creator of the universe; not by our doing, but only through the Blood of Jesus Christ are we made clean.

However ... our feet get dirty.

  • Moments of Anger and Rage
  • Judgmental Words or Thoughts
  • Sexual Sins of so Many Types
  • Greed, Want, and Selfishness
  • Lying, Lust, and Envy
  • Theft, Gossip, Gluttony
  • Apathy ...
The list goes on ... so ... much ... dirt ...

We walk in a world that is no longer our own. We have fled from our father the devil into our Heavenly father's arms, yet we still tread on this earth corrupted by evil. So much of His glory and beauty surrounds us each day, yet it is tainted by sin. So much joy, peace, and a life full of blessing, while at the same time the battle goes on for our souls. 

This gift of life should bring a smile to our face ... but our feet ... get dirty.

This is why salvation comes, and sanctification continues. This is why we come to the cross on our knees, but need to keep finding them daily. We wash in the waters of baptism from death to life, but we walk on the dust of this earth as soon as we rise.

Our feet ... get dirty.

I am simply reminded to come to Him daily and have Him wash my feet. He's already made me clean, may I never doubt that and my salvation. Yet may I never forget how dirty my feet can get walking in this world ... 

Pull up a chair, give Him your feet, and may he prepare you for yet another day in His service.

Blessings,
~Matthew

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

A God Eclipse


When the sun was eclipsed by the moon recently, the sun didn't diminish or vanish. To think so would seem absurd. It was simply blocked by some other thing that got in the way. The sun was still just as hot, bright, and real as it was before the eclipse and after.

I feel we too sometimes let things eclipse God. Sometimes it is our situations, our problems, or other individuals attempts that try to bully, silence, or belittle our views. Perhaps it's social situations or culture. Sometimes it's even more simple things like music, television, video games, and other noise that gets in the way.

There is a lot of noise in this world indeed.

However even if we forget God, it doesn't change Who He is, was, and always will be. God is still God ... and we are not.

Often I find people who claim they believe in God, but yet they find the need to fit this god into their own box. Their own box of understanding. This box doesn't require any discomfort, challenge, faith, conviction, and certainly not the existence of sin or any Absolute Truth. Reason, discussion, and intellect is replaced by bullying opposing views. If they feel differently, think differently, or act differently, they just make sure the box fits these views.

Some feel that I am the one closed minded. This is fine and expected, but I'm not the one making up the parameters. I seek Him ... His will, and His understanding. In turn the journey has been eye opening and mind opening.

Reading through John 9 last night I found just that. I came across this passage where Jesus healed someone who was blind from birth. However what became very obvious, is that when Jesus touches you, you are not the same. He didn't just open his eyes, he opened his mind.
The man answered, “Why, this is an amazing thing! You do not know where he comes from, and yet he opened my eyes. We know that God does not listen to sinners, but if anyone is a worshiper of God and does his will, God listens to him. Never since the world began has it been heard that anyone opened the eyes of a man born blind. If this man were not from God, he could do nothing.” They answered him, “You were born in utter sin, and would you teach us?” And they cast him out. (John 9:30-34 ESV)
And they cast him out ...

Why? Because God didn't fit into their box.

Then again ...
Do you think that I have come to give peace on earth? No, I tell you, but rather division.
(Luke 12:51 ESV)
There always was a dividing line. Don't be naive to think that others are not on the other side of that line facing against you. Stay strong ... and be at peace brothers and sisters ... love conquers! :) May we pray together that others are touched by Him as we watch eyes and minds become open to His amazing Truth.

His,
~Matthew

Sunday, September 14, 2014

When Joy Fades


"I'm trading it in, for the joy of the Lord!"
Without going into a whole discussion around something I'm sure you have all heard more than one time, I'm not proposing that Joy is equal to silliness, happiness, or being goofy. Joy is something much deeper, eternal, and lasting. Happiness may grow at times from joy, but joy is not circumstantial. Joy is a something so profound that words rarely can do it justice, and I would also guess that many of you have experience this but possibly struggle to remain in it. Joy remains in trials, fires, and loneliness. Joy remains when our situation is no longer happy, laughable, or silly. Joy also remains when our life is going well, our relationships are going well, and our job is going well. Why? Again, it's not circumstantial ... because it should rest in a beautiful Truth from Someone that never changes; Christ Jesus.

However, as a follower of Christ, we also should be well aware when we feel that joyful rest waning. As I still am surfacing from what I would describe as a desert time, I am sensitive to this struggle. I learned a great deal, and I can tell that this afternoon was a time when I begin to leave His restful arms and begin to try and take control myself; a task that I will never be able to accomplish.

I have a lot on my plate that He is carrying, and when I step away and try to take hold of the plate myself I am absolutely crushed! Yet just like a child learning to walk, when I start to stumble, I feel His Hands right at my side catching me again; and I hand Him my plate back. (why do I think I could ever accomplish what He can?)

So while I may not have to always be silly (like my goofy son in the picture above!), while there may be times to handle serious matters, while happiness may come and go, I should always be able to rest in the Joy He provides.
Seriousness is not a fruit of the Spirit, but joy is. - Gareth Gilkeson
These words are challenging to me. There are plenty of times I'm quiet, serious, and reflective simply because I'm just quiet! However, there are also times I think I am too serious (at work, home, and about) when I'm missing the joy of this life He provides.

I struggle with this; but I will also let Him work with me on this too.

When Joy Fades? Recenter in Christ, and you will find it again.

~Matthew

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Kings: A Journey Through Samuel


1 Samuel 8
"[Give us a king so that] we also may be like all the nations, and that our king may judge us and go out before us and fight our battles." 1 Samuel 8:20 (ESV, Emphasis Added)
I often come back to this chapter. A people rejecting God and turning to the State for help and salvation is both a theme now as it was then. The cry, the warning, and the allowance to stumble causes me to see an immaturity in society that has never seemed to wane. However, going back to this passage, as much as they wanted a king, they simply didn't trust God anymore.

... or perhaps they let their problems get bigger than God.

  • Identity: What do we look like to all the other nations?
  • Authority: Who is going to lead and judge us Spiritually when Samuel is gone?
  • Leadership: Who will be our leader? We need someone to follow.
  • Protection: Are we going to get attacked again? Who will lead our army?
I don't really think things have changed all that much.
  • Identity: Am I going to look odd or offend someone else by being a Christian?
  • Authority: What is going to happen if he/she gets elected and our candidate does not?
  • Leadership: I didn't really like that sermon. I didn't like the band today. I don't think my pastor is as dynamic as that one I listen to on my podcast. What church should I go to now?
  • Protection: When will the next terrorist attack happen? Am I safe in this country?
These questions of identity, authority, leadership, and protection are all provided by God should we trust in Him. We need to learn to embrace our identity, and trust in His authority, leadership, and protection. Storms will come, and the waves will pound on the doors and perhaps break a few windows, but He is bigger than any storm, and better yet, He alone can calm it.

Are some things frightening? Yes. Are some things challenging to make a stand? Yes.

However this world will not overcome us, because we are His, and He overcame this world.

Stand Strong,
~Matt

Friday, August 29, 2014

U Turns: A Journey Through Samuel


1 Samuel 7

And Samuel said to all the house of Israel, “If you are returning to the LORD with all your heart, then put away the foreign gods and the Ashtaroth from among you and direct your heart to the LORD and serve him only, and he will deliver you out of the hand of the Philistines.” So the people of Israel put away the Baals and the Ashtaroth, and they served the LORD only. (1 Samuel 7:3-4 ESV)

If you say you are going to return to the Lord, then ...
  • Put away [what you worship more than Him]
  • Direct your heart to Him
  • Serve Him
                                        ... then you will be delivered.
When I read this passage it reminded me clearly of the hope and expectation He has for us. This is not a vending machine make-deals with God. This is not a health, wealth, and prosperity gospel. This is a simple relationship reality check. Do you love me? Then obey me; and if you obey me, it shows that you love me. (John 14:21-24)

One who has a heart towards God obeys out of love. Even if one may not feel like obeying, they should do so fully submitting to God in His infinite wisdom and mercy. If in your heart you are submitting to God because "you don't want to get punished" I think your heart is in the wrong place. Not that you are failing and undeserving (I feel the same way at times) but it is a good opportunity to realign yourself and not think about just consequences, but rethink who you are to Him.

You alone are valuable enough for Jesus, the son of God, to die on a cross. Even if you were the only soul that was saved, you were worth it. You are worth the birth, life, teaching, torture, death, and resurrection of God. You.

Humbling is it not?

So how do we respond to such a reality? Take a u-turn on sin. Leave those 'things' behind ... give your heart to Christ ... and serve Him.

You may be far from God, on the fence, newly enlisted in His army, or a long-time veteran. In any case, I am sure that there is a u-turn somewhere we all need to take ... something in our life ... maybe even right now at this moment. Think. See it?

Take it ...

His,
~Matt

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Until the Cows Come Home: A Journey Through Samuel

1 Samuel 6

Often I come across common phrases in Scripture that we use today. I don't really know if there is any history to the expression "Until the cows come home" from 1 Samuel 6 but if so, it's somewhat appropriate. Not exactly something the cows would fondly remember, but it's a story nonetheless!

So here we see that the Philistines had enough of this ark because they think God may be punishing them, something they didn't have to stretch too far to see, and discussed how they didn't want another "Egypt" situation to happen. So they slap the ark on a cart, find a couple milking cows that recently gave birth, locked their calves up, and hooked them up to a cart. While I could go into various detail about cows (not the most exciting lesson) I think it's suffice to say that these 'milking' cows would not be good at this, enjoy this, know what to do, and certainly would not willingly leave their calves behind for the benefit of both (another lesson I care not to explain right now). In any case, guess what the cows do? Yep ... they go home.

OK, well not their home ... but they brought the ark "home" so to speak. (We can talk about God's amazing control and sovereignty another time!)

Anyway, the people were thrilled when the saw the ark coming! So thrilled they chopped up the cart to use for a fire to sacrifice the cows ... poor cows. :|

(side note: While I deeply appreciate the meaning behind the sacrifices, reflect often on the penalty of sin and what these sacrifices represented, I am thrilled that we are living after the One Final Sacrifice that was made! So the minute you (or I) start grimacing at the idea of more blood spilled (like I grimaced above), let us not forget Calvary. Brutal beyond brutal ... blood like no other ... pain, suffering, and death ... for you. Because you and I are heirs ... )

As much as I sometimes see me and my sin in the Israelites, I do see them do something so often (and again in this chapter) that I need to do more in my life. Maybe physically, maybe spiritually ... maybe something seen, or maybe just something told over and over again. When God does something for you what do you do? Do you know what they often did?

Build a memorial ... build an altar ... set a stone ... to remember!
The great stone beside which they set down the ark of the LORD is a witness to this day in the field of Joshua of Beth-shemesh. (1 Samuel 6:18 ESV)
"Your life is progressing spiritually when you stop making deals with God, and start building altars." - Steven Furtick

Are you hoping to see any cows on your horizon? Are you waiting for that cart to arrive? I pray that when you do, you run to them, rejoice in the moment, and place a stone ... to remember.

His,
~Matt

Monday, August 25, 2014

False gods: A Journey Through Samuel

1 Samuel 5

Idolatry is a sin and theme we see illustrated in Scripture repeatedly. Even God's chosen people have used the ark as an idol as we previously have seen by seeing it as an object of protection, and missing the One to for Whom it was created. While sacred and a gift, it still was a mere dwelling place. It was only sacred because of Who it was for ...

Yet, God did dwell there, and this stark difference is seen in this almost humorous passage of Scripture:
Then the Philistines took the ark of God and brought it into the house of Dagon and set it up beside Dagon. And when the people of Ashdod rose early the next day, behold, Dagon had fallen face downward on the ground before the ark of the LORD. So they took Dagon and put him back in his place. But when they rose early on the next morning, behold, Dagon had fallen face downward on the ground before the ark of the LORD, and the head of Dagon and both his hands were lying cut off on the threshold. Only the trunk of Dagon was left to him. (1 Samuel 5:2-4 ESV)

There is nothing that shall reign supreme over our Lord; especially something that is worshiped. While we could go into some of the history behind Dagon, the threshold, and people during that time, the point simply remains that God will make a mockery of anything that tries to mock Him.

As Isaiah points out, individuals can even make a mockery of themselves by treating these objects as gods to begin with:
He cuts down cedars, or he chooses a cypress tree or an oak and lets it grow strong among the trees of the forest. He plants a cedar and the rain nourishes it. Then it becomes fuel for a man. He takes a part of it and warms himself; he kindles a fire and bakes bread. Also he makes a god and worships it; he makes it an idol and falls down before it. Half of it he burns in the fire. Over the half he eats meat; he roasts it and is satisfied. Also he warms himself and says, “Aha, I am warm, I have seen the fire!” And the rest of it he makes into a god, his idol, and falls down to it and worships it. He prays to it and says, “Deliver me, for you are my god!" (Isaiah 44:14-17 ESV)
Deliver me [piece of wood] ... you are my god!

A King ... (chess piece that is)

Ridiculous, but sadly apt for today as well. Deliverance, release, and rescue. My life will be better if I am delivered from what? Deliver me doctor! Deliver me friend! Deliver me judge! Deliver me Mr. President! Deliver me spouse! Deliver me job! Deliver me temptation! Deliver me retirement! Deliver me ... deliver me ... deliver me ...

God delivers; He alone. Jesus.

How often do we see peace, joy, harmony, contentment, just around the corner. After "this" then I will be able to relax and enjoy life more. That thought is destructive to ourselves, our family, our friends, and ultimately and most importantly our relationship with the Lord. It is sin.

May we learn more each day to rest in Him, trust in Him, and let loose this bondage we call control. It's a false god that promises but will never deliver, because only One can.

His,
~Matthew

Sunday, August 24, 2014

God is not a Tool: A Journey Through Samuel

1 Samuel 4


If you want to catch a fish, you bring a fishing pole right? It's a tool to do the job. No fishing pole, likely no fishing victory! OK, perhaps you are good with a spear, but I think my point is fair enough. If there is a job to do, bring a tool for the job.

Unfortunately this is how some of God's people also thought ... about Him.

They felt they could use God as a tool for victory.
And when the people came to the camp, the elders of Israel said, “Why has the LORD defeated us today before the Philistines? Let us bring the ark of the covenant of the LORD here from Shiloh, that it may come among us and save us from the power of our enemies.” So the people sent to Shiloh and brought from there the ark of the covenant of the LORD of hosts, who is enthroned on the cherubim. And the two sons of Eli, Hophni and Phinehas, were there with the ark of the covenant of God. (1 Samuel 4:3-4 ESV)
Let me just say that this did not end well ...

Did God fight for Israel? Absolutely. However you often see other things first such as: Prayer, Guidance, Direction, Questions, Adoration, Sacrifice, Worship, Seeking Approval, etc. Not to mention the most important fact that it wasn't about the ark ... it was about God!

We are God's tools, He is not ours.

We seem to want to bring God into our lives when needed, upon request, with specific tasks in mind to perform. He is not a tool ...

"We often pray to be more like Christ, but whenever something comes into our life to make us more like Him, we immediately send out prayer requests to get that situation removed from our life!" - Henry Blackaby

He is not a tool ...

     He is God.

          He is Jesus.

May you and I simply seek Him first, and let the rest follow.

Love and Blessings,
~Matthew

Drawing Near: A Journey Through Samuel

1 Samuel 3



There are few things more precious to me than the sight of a child sleeping. The peace, comfort, and security (combined with the total dependence on a parent) has always drawn me to gaze upon precious sleeping faces. It becomes even more emotional when that sleeping face is next to yours as they cuddle with you because they simply want to draw near to your presence.

This picture is shown in Scripture as Samuel is simply drawn to the presence of God:
"Now the boy Samuel was ministering to the LORD in the presence of Eli. And the word of the LORD was rare in those days; there was no frequent vision. At that time Eli, whose eyesight had begun to grow dim so that he could not see, was lying down in his own place. The lamp of God had not yet gone out, and Samuel was lying down in the temple of the LORD, where the ark of God was.(1 Samuel 3:1-3 ESV)

He simply cuddled next to God and was lying down in His presence.

I do not feel like this was a rare moment that just happened to be mentioned in this passage. I believe that this is a sign and example given to us to show how he was drawing near to God. He simply wanted to sleep in His presence and be in His proximity, and I think this was something he did many times growing up.

Have you ever simply drawn near to God without words or any other intention than simply being with Him? I have, and I can tell you it is the most comforting place to be. Many times I have not had words to say (or was simply tired of talking about a situation) and just closed my eyes, relaxed, and sometimes drifted off to sleep. I usually begin by laying down at the foot of His throne (though I somehow always ended up in His arms).

If you haven't experienced God in this way, I can't encourage you enough to just develop a relationship with Him where you simply just learn to draw near to Him. Let not the world tell you that emotional relationships are not for men, hardly. There is far more strength required to show emotion than to conceal it.

Draw near.

Praying for you,
~Matthew

Thursday, August 21, 2014

When God calls ...

Over the past 18 months, my life has entered what I would consider a desert season. God hasn't been less present in my life, I've just been wandering. Much of this struggle has surfaced in my work environment. Many people have commented on the amount of travel I get to do (internationally) and enjoy my stories, pictures, and memories I share. While I certainly try to make the most out of my trips, focus on the positive, enjoy meeting new people, and experience different cultures, it also comes with a price. Emotionally and physically it is exhausting ... but there is something more.

It has surfaced for me how much of our world is hurting and in need. The picture below is just one small example of the contrast. Staying in one of the most luxurious hotels I've ever stayed in was built in the middle of one of the poorest areas I've ever seen.
A view inside and outside my hotel (ITC Grand Chola, Chennai - India)
However what I noticed just as much as the contrast in wealth, was a sad similarity inside and outside the hotel. Empty eyes and heavy hearts; wealth may have granted physical comfort, but it certainly does not grant lasting joy. I think I may have seen more smiles admits the poverty than among the wealthy during my visit.


In any case, sitting with these images and memories causes the inability to see things from just an American perspective. I return from some of these trips impacted so deeply only to find our culture arguing about meaningless things and ignoring atrocities and other serious matters that we leave up to self discovery, tolerance, and relative truth. What is going on? I echo the words from another era, and country ...

"Men have forgotten God; that’s why all this has happened." - Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn (The Templeton Address)

Yet what is forgotten can be remembered ...

♫ I woke up this morning
Saw a world full of trouble now
Thought, how’d we ever get so far down
How’s it ever gonna turn around
So I turned my eyes to Heaven
I thought, “God, why don’t You do something?”
Well, I just couldn’t bear the thought of
People living in poverty
Children sold into slavery
The thought disgusted me
So, I shook my fist at Heaven
Said, “God, why don’t You do something?”
He said, “I did, I created you”
(Matthew West - Do Something)

I wanted to share all of those thoughts only to bring me back to where I wanted this to go in the first place; God's calling. Have you ever noticed how when God calls it's often not in an area we may choose ourself?
Now an angel of the Lord said to Philip, “Rise and go toward the south to the road that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza.” This is a desert place. (Acts 8:26 ESV)
This is a desert place to which God was calling him. God called him to a desert to deliver a message. He didn't call him to a place of comfort and refuge, but He called him to the desert.

A desert? What about my desert? Has He brought me here for a reason? Have you been brought to a desert for a reason? Is He calling? Are we listening?

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Collisions, Insurance, and Assurance

This afternoon I was going on some errands at lunch; bank, bank, auto parts store, and finally a neighborhood store to pick up a handful of quick 4x6 prints to fill my fridge with some recent memories. On the way out, my truck was backed into by another vehicle. The small dent in my truck and a cracked piece of glass was nothing compared to what I saw when I stepped out and looked at the other vehicle!
Notice the dent under my tail light? (and some cracked glass)

A slightly different story for this poor vehicle!

Nobody hurt, friendly exchange, and even some laughter at the comparison in damage! I don't recall much other than being hit, but even if they were pulling out fast (which I'll assume they were) I still am surprised at what a seemingly minor impact can accomplish.

Have you ever thought of what a single harsh word from your mouth can do to another? A shove? Rolled eyes? Crude joke? Sarcastic comment? Inappropriate tease? A jab back?

Have you ever returned someone giving you a ding, with a smash?

There are however other types of collisions, those that are more serious; much like there are other types of hurts, pains, and destruction. Adultery, abortion, death, rejection, rape, murder, abuse, etc.

With an insured vehicle, dents, bangs, and smashed glass can all get repaired, and even the owner will hardly know the difference. In fact, sometimes it's even better than before! However with an individual, healing doesn't quite come quickly if really ever for some. Painful memories become burdens that we struggle to let go, and hurtful people seem to find ways of lingering in our broken minds and hearts.

Yet admits all that, there is one Source of true renewal ... this is not insurance, but assurance ... 
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. (2 Corinthians 5:17 ESV)
Notice the passage does not read that the 'hard' has passed away and the 'easy' has come. Hardly, in fact much of our Christian walk is of struggle, rejection, and suffering. Yet even in the middle of this struggle, rejection, and suffering, He grants us peace, joy, and love. This reward is more than this world could ever offer. What's the trade off? 100 years of finite wealth compared to eternity with the Creator of the Universe as heirs?

Bad trade brother or sister, tap out! You may have to seek peace and pursue it, but you will find it!

I pray each time I see another accident, minor or major, that after praying for God's hand in that situation, that I remember and recall my assurance. That I remember and recall my hurts, and hurts to others. That I remember and recall that I was made new. That I remember and recall that life is not easy, nor is it meant to be, but I have promises of peace, love, and joy that are as true now as they were when Jesus spoke them in the flesh 2000 years ago.

They are true for you too, and I pray you accept them if you have not yet already from the only Source that can provide.

His,
~Matthew

Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. (Hebrews 11:1 ESV)

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Cautious Beauty




My wife and I decided to take our daughter on a walk at a nearby park this afternoon. There were quite a few deer that we got to see, including one that was obviously very used to us humans! Down the road she walked as we headed towards her. I would have thought eventually she would bolt into the woods and let us by; not quite! After this picture above my daughter kept getting closer and closer until I had to hold her back and wait until it was safe to pass. (all the while hearing the wise words of caution from my wife behind me)

Afraid of a deer? Not so much afraid, but I appreciate the power that a feeding animal can show off with it's hooves or head as you approach it, especially to a 3 year old body, and from a young energetic deer built of lean muscle.


Beautiful, graceful, docile, and often gentle ... yet still warrants caution.
One who is wise is cautious and turns away from evil, but a fool is reckless and careless. (Proverbs 14:16 ESV)
Evil deer? Perhaps if you tune into to some late night zombie deer apocalypse flick on television, but I think my point is a bit more fundamental. To be cautious is wise, especially when evil is involved; and carelessness is the work of a fool.

If there is one tip that I could offer to my peers, and future generations it is this; slow down. To quote a song: "We're all one phone call from our knees."

Perhaps right now you or I are about to walk into a situation where life may take its hooves and hit us in the chest. Perhaps you or I hear that whisper of Love Himself telling us to stop, hold His hand, and take caution. Perhaps you or I just want to reach out our hand and pet this beautiful looking object, telling ourselves that it's just a moment, we have this under control. Perhaps you or I are drawn to the beauty of this world and are about to throw caution into the wind as the world tells us to "follow our heart". Perhaps.

If we are ...
One who is wise is cautious and turns away from evil, but a fool is reckless and careless.
God Speed,
~Matthew

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Next Time, I Hope to Bother Somebody

I feel our culture is pushing us in a direction that is leading to a loss in a sense of community. I know for many of you this statement is hardly surprising, and not very original. Regardless, I would like to sit with this thought for a while as I think it is challenging to accept, and even more so, change. Besides, I also have a story to share about it ...

First, I just want to reflect on this Scripture ...

"Now the full number of those who believed were of one heart and soul, and no one said that any of the things that belonged to him was his own, but they had everything in common." (Acts 4:32 ESV)

Some have used this passage in an attempt to support socialism or communism, however this is not a mandated lifestyle, but rather one of the heart. This is not a regulation, but rather a proclamation. A proclamation of who and Whose they are.

So now time for a short story ...

Earlier today I was trimming my lawn with my weed whacker (or weed whip, but whacker sounds much more destructive, which is what I was doing to the weeds!). Regardless, I was reflecting on how this lovely piece of machinery was in my garage. Recently my gas powered one quit, and I decided to purchase a replacement; this time cordless. Before my purchase my neighbor offered to let me use his (cordless) since I didn't have one. It worked fine, was right next door, and certainly was cheaper!

However, I didn't have one of my own. After all, it's my lawn, and I need my own stuff right?

I reflected how my neighbor commented how he loved his, but the battery was dying and he needed to get a replacement soon. I wonder if I approached him and asked: "Hey, how about I buy a new battery and we just share the tool?"

Good idea, but that's OK, I have one of my own now ... after all, if we did have some agreement then perhaps I would have to bother him. Right? Bother him ... with what? Talking? Sharing a quick word as he opens his garage? Smiling as I wave to their child? Striking up a conversation about work, weather, faith, family, life?

But it's OK ... I have my own now ... success right?

Right?

Maybe next time I'll choose to bother somebody ...

Friday, June 6, 2014

The Hidden Idol: A Journey Through Samuel

This is part of a Journey Through Samuel blog series I started. One of my children recently brought up these books in conversation as their university is asking them to read this (along with some secular publications) for an assignment. However, it left me thinking of these books again and I decided I would take my own journey; not a literary one or historical one, but a spiritual one. I'm eager to see what new things He has to teach me through His Word as I journey through 1st and 2nd Samuel again; chapter by chapter. Join me.

1 Samuel 2

There is much we can glean from this second chapter, and much I have. However I decided to reflect on one particular verse that drew my attention. Early on we learn that Eli's sons are nothing to rave about, and in fact the Bible mentions them as worthless, because they did not know God. Worth seemingly is tied directly to knowing our Creator. Without that knowledge, our worth is worldly, passing, and terminal. However knowing Him, even being sinful and full of faults, we then can experience true and eternal worth. However, that's not the passage that I reflected on this time through.

Later in the Chapter, God also rebukes Eli:
Why then do you scorn my sacrifices and my offerings that I commanded for my dwelling, and honor your sons above me by fattening yourselves on the choicest parts of every offering of my people Israel?’ (1 Samuel 2:29 ESV)
Clearly, while Eli's sons may have shown their greed, he too partook. After they took what was not theirs, their father enjoyed the spoils of their sinful actions as well. Perhaps he wished to rebuke them, perhaps he wished they hadn't taken part in sin, and perhaps he didn't want to eat with them ... but he did. Temptation, fear of conflict, love for his children, whatever the reason, he chose to honor his sons above what he knew was right, and dishonored God.

Children can become an idol.

Often times a rebuke, correction, or disciplinary action can be very difficult, but we must choose His will. Luke 12:51 reminds us that Christ did not come to bring peace, but rather division. His life, sacrifice, and resurrections leaves us with a choice. A line in the sand has been drawn. Division has been declared. We are for Him, or against Him. We must choose.

When our child stands against God's will, we must lovingly stand with Christ, and pray that they have the strength to choose life for themselves. We grant them no favor encouraging them down a path of sin and destruction. We grant them no favor giving them smiles if we should be giving them warnings.

I do not think that Eli was completely unable to control this situation. I think that their actions could have been different had a firm but loving hand been placed on them at a younger age. Why? Because they "did not know God". Eli had sons that did not know God ...
You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates. (Deuteronomy 6:7-9 ESV)
How is this possible? Clearly there was something being missed ... a home of legalism? Perhaps he was so wrapped up in his role that he abandoned one of his most important ministries, his family? Whatever the case, I sadly feel it could have been different.

Let not our love for our children be so misguided that we think that love does not come with rebuke.  Let not fear of rejection or conflict have us sitting on the sidelines as our children go astray. May we be active and loving, but always hold Him up in all we do, and never let our children forget who they are before their King; masterpieces.

Our children becoming idols does not stem from love, it stems from pride. May we love our children, not create idols out of them.

His,
~Matthew

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Release: A Journey Through Samuel

This is part of a Journey Through Samuel blog series I started. One of my children recently brought up these books in conversation as their university is asking them to read this (along with some secular publications) for an assignment. However, it left me thinking of these books again and I decided I would take my own journey; not a literary one or historical one, but a spiritual one. I'm eager to see what new things He has to teach me through His Word as I journey through 1st and 2nd Samuel again; chapter by chapter. Join me.

1 Samuel 1

Just this first chapter introduces issues such as polygamy in the house of Elkanah, preferential treatment, jealousy, and even a prophet (Eli) who shows his weakness in the flesh as he makes wrongful accusations. We could talk about the possible lack of trust in God which caused Elkanah to seek another wife, we could talk about the complexities that this caused with the mistreatment of individuals involved, and we could talk about self-righteous behavior and pride that gets in the way even with a man of God. 

However, I just want to talk about a smile!

Hannah, who could not have any children, felt the burden of judgement and lack of worth. Seeing her husband, likely take up another wife due to that very reason, and then his 2nd wife mistreat her was difficult I'm sure. Yet there was something that changed her perspective as we read: 
"Then the woman went her way and ate, and her face was no longer sad." (1 Samuel 1:18b ESV)

Her face was no longer sad ... perhaps she smiled for the first time in a very long time.

     What was it?
 
Hope

She left blessed, and full of hope, that God would one day open her womb, and she would give birth to a child. I'm sure this wasn't the first time she prayed, but I'm sure this time it was different. There was no mention of a quick conception, in fact it seems like it was a while. In due time we are told in Scripture she did. Yet, her sadness left her that moment; or should I say, she left her sadness behind. 

I am prompted to ask myself what sadness I need to leave behind. I am prompted to ask myself where I need to place hope in my life. Where I am not letting go? Thankfully, I need not seek a prophet for a blessing as I have one from The King Himself. My hope is well placed, may I have the confidence to place it in Him more each day ...

Exchanging sadness for the Joy of the Lord,
~Matthew

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Filling Cracks


Ah, pothole season! Sometimes it takes a harsh winter on our roads for us to realize where those cracks are as they become exposed, opened wider, and in need of repair. I feel like I've been on journey these past 18 months as well, a winter of my own, that has seen me through some personal challenges. As I feel like I'm beginning to exit this winter, I too am surveying some cracks that were revealed, and in need of Repair.

For the past several days something has been placed on my heart that I want to address; social networking. While the topic of balancing and managing time spent in an electronic environment is not new, and almost exhaustively written about, I thought I'd share a bit of my own ponderings as I think my application is a bit different. So how is it different?

It's about cracks, fractures in my time each day.

I could talk about limiting time, the benefits of it, the obstruction it can cause, the amount of noise there is out there; but I want to focus on the tiny cracks in my time. The tiny cracks that find me on an elevator, in line at the store, waiting at a red light, waiting for my food to arrive at a restaurant, waiting on a friend, and perhaps even waiting (sitting?) in the bathroom!

These cracks are very often spent thumbing through my phone on some/most social networking sites.

I do like to set aside some quiet time each night to spend reflecting on Truth, my Creator, and His Word. However, the cracks in my day (and there are many) are simply filled with noise when they could be filled with Him. 
I sit here and try to imagine a day where I did things the other way around. Perhaps I take some time in the evening to relax, flip through some social sites, news, catch up with some people, share a few laughs, tears, and pictures. Yet that same day found me in the elevator scrolling through a Gospel. It found me waiting in line catching a few verses from Paul that could change my perspective. It found me at the restaurant table reading through some prophecies. It found me at a red light singing a psalm to myself in the car ...

What a different day that would be!

I certainly am not suggesting to replace quality study time with slivers of time, I'm just suggesting that perhaps those slivers of time, filled with Him, would glue my entire day together in love, peace, and joy.

Social networking isn't evil; it's quite relevant to how we communicate today. While apps may make it easy for me to flip through Facebook, Tumblr, Twitter, IG, there are also apps to make it easy to dive into His Word, prayer, and reflection. So I decided to make a minor tweak to my phone ... and one in my head!
  1. Move social sites off my home screen
  2. Remember why I moved social sites off my home screen
So I sat down outside for a few minutes with a couple of my children, and grabbed my phone ... my thumb didn't find Facebook, it found Luke. It also found me having a quick discussion. As I read the passage aloud, my son who wandered next to me asked and reflected with me. My youngest daughter just looked at my phone screen, and watched and listened as I read ...

Filling in the cracks ...

His,
~Matthew

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Ups and Downs


A few weeks ago, as I was backstage at church waiting to go worship, one of the youth groups walked into the green room and sat down. Shortly after they came in they began one of their regular discussions together, this time it was: "Ups, Downs, where did you see God?"

They went around the room each sharing a high point over the past week, a low point, and where they saw God. This simple routine sparked something in me that burned so brightly I just couldn't ignore it; what an awesome, short, focused, opportunity for reflection. You may be sitting there unsure why this was so impactful to me, but stop and think about the opportunities that this can bring; Spiritually, relationally, individually and communal.
“Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates. (Deuteronomy 6:4-9 ESV)
Our God is a God of memorial; in our own journey, in our families journey, and in the journeys of the past and those yet to come. He encourages us to reflect and remember. It reminds me of the "Ebenezer" stone we have on our fireplace mantle with the Scripture written on it from 1 Samuel 7:
"Then Samuel took a stone and set it up between Mizpah and Shen and called its name Ebenezer; for he said, “Till now the LORD has helped us.” (1 Samuel 7:12 ESV)
God can show His face during incredible moments of peace, healing, power, guidance, and love (and countless other ways). Yet every day we are presented with opportunities to see Him and experience Him more. He does not hide, but He doesn't shout for attention either (even though it is impossible to truly ignore). We just need to look.

This little routine is not a childhood reflection. This is not a focus for the youth. This is a call to reflect and remember for all of us ...

So me? This weekend?

Ups: Clearly the taste of Spring! The weather, the garden, the sun ... it sparks so many emotions, and I am quite excited for the change of seasons!

Downs: Work was difficult this week. Saturday and Sunday both included some needed time on projects, and while I have a job that balances my work and home life well usually, sometimes, like this weekend, it calls for some extra attention. It was acceptable, but clearly not fun.

Where I saw God: Planting seeds! I could probably reflect for hours on this action, not only metaphorically, but physically as well. The amazing Hand of God that is seen in Creation speaks so loudly to me the more I reflect on it. Chaos and chance have no place here, and I see it more clearly each day. How awesome is our God.

So how about you? I encourage you to start this in your home, if you don't already. This has brought some amazing conversation with my wife, my children, and with God and I ...

Praising the Ups,
Matthew

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Grow by Shrinking


For me, I often draw to John [the Baptist's] words when pondering my relationship with Christ:
"He must increase, but I must decrease.” (John 3:30 ESV)
Or as some other translations read ... 
"He must become greater; I must become less.” (John 3:30 NIV) 
I reflected back on this verse as I was reading Paul's words in his letter to the Romans about Abraham's faith, and how it was "counted to him as righteousness". First, let's see the passage (emphasis added):
No unbelief made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God, fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised. That is why his faith was “counted to him as righteousness.” (Romans 4:20-22 ESV)
Not only do we see his faith shown by being fully convinced that God was able to do what He had promised, we also see how Abraham's faith increased; by him decreasing, and giving glory to God.

Do you want to increase your faith? Give glory God!

His,
~Matthew

"Humility is not thinking less of yourself but thinking of yourself less.” - CS Lewis

Friday, March 14, 2014

What I see ...


For those of you that occasionally read my ramblings, as frequent or as infrequent as they are at times, you may notice that I usually try to pin a picture of my own on the post with the focus of what I'm trying to communicate. Pictures, like music, speak to me on a very intimate level. Sometimes in fact, many times actually, I sit down to write and before even diving into His Word I just look ... look at pictures.

Why?

I see God everywhere ...

Some think I'm crazy, some claim I just hear voices in my head and I'm a lunatic, some roll their eyes, some just don't understand ... (and that's quite expected)

I may not reflect Him well at times.
I may not represent Him well at times.
Yet He is everything to me, and He is in everything to me.

I see God everywhere ...
My marriage, my family, my occupation, my hobbies, what I choose to watch, read, and listen to, the decisions I make, the actions I take, education, politics, travel, words like joy, love, peace, patience, everything ... even pain, heartache, brokenness ... I see God there too ... healing ... working ...

So even when I'm laying on the picnic table in my backyard in 50 degrees like this afternoon, soaking in the sun. I look over and see my 2 year old rolling her own snowball for the first time to make her very first snowman herself ... I see God.

I see her joy, creativity, and patience ... and He is all of those things and more.

You know this passage right?
Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends. (1 Corinthians 13:4-8 ESV)
You hear it at weddings (mostly it seems) and often spoke of when we are told how to love each other. You do realize God is Love don't you?

That is how He loves you ...

Feel Loved ...
~Matthew

Monday, February 17, 2014

Prayer and Expectation


Relationships and Quality Time

 “Be still, and know that I am God.
  I will be exalted among the nations,
  I will be exalted in the earth!”
(Psalm 46:10 ESV)

Distractions

For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. (Matthew 6:21 ESV)

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Out Giving God


 
Well, I have so many thoughts that I have jotted down over the past few weeks I hardly know where to start. Before I get stuck in a rut amidst all the treasures of His Word, I know I must at least start somewhere. After all I have been given by God, I thought it fitting to start in the first book, and seventeenth chapter, of Chronicles.
Just some of my thoughts ...
As I lay on my bed in Sao Paulo, Brazil, staring out into the busy world out my window that late evening, I come across this chapter. It opens with a simple humbling realization from David.
Now when David lived in his house, David said to Nathan the prophet, “Behold, I dwell in a house of cedar, but the ark of the covenant of the LORD is under a tent.” (1 Chronicles 17:1 ESV)
I simply paused on that verse for a while and began to see all the areas of my life that lay under the sturdy structure of cedar, while I give God the shed outside. Priorities in my time, my words, my actions, and even my checkbook.

And then I read further; God speaking:
In all places where I have moved with all Israel, did I speak a word with any of the judges of Israel, whom I commanded to shepherd my people, saying, “Why have you not built me a house of cedar?”’ (1 Chronicles 17:6 ESV)
A God who deserves everything still shows His humble nature.

Then for a while I lay there thinking about David's heart, and how he must have felt. I think about my amazing God, and His gracious response.

I read on and find these words ...(emphasis added)
Moreover, I declare to you that the LORD will build you a house. (1 Chronicles 17:10b ESV)
I love this. You can't out give God.

I see a heart that was cut, repentant, and willing to be lowered so his God could be raised; and in return, it was blessed even more! Amen!
Then, what do we do when we are presented with such a gift from the Giver of givers?
Accept it graciously!
And now, O LORD, let the word that you have spoken concerning your servant and concerning his house be established forever, and do as you have spoken, (1 Chronicles 17:23 ESV)
Oh sweet Truth ...
Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted. (Matthew 23:12 ESV)

May I continue to become less, so He can become more! 

His,
~
Matthew

“True humility is not thinking less of yourself; it is thinking of yourself less.” - CS Lewis

Thursday, January 16, 2014

New Patterns


Have you ever given a gift, offered a hand, or done something for someone else and were met with silence, lack of thanks, or disregard? I understand we do things for others without expecting affirmation, but how does it make you feel? Do you ever take others for granted? I sometimes find myself doing so with God. Yesterday as I look down at my quickly eaten lunch between meetings, the thought occurred to me; I didn't even thank God.

It's not about being legalistic, it's about being selfish. Not a single meal, day, or gift do I want to take for granted. The real problem I had was not this meal, but a pattern I've noticed over the past couple weeks. Yes, I'm busy, but who isn't? All the more reason to take a moment, breathe, relax, and converse with my Lord ...

Tomorrow is my birthday; what a wonderful time to begin a new pattern of focusing on my blessings and being thankful.

His,
Matthew


Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Believing


 
Sometimes when I sit down to read, study, or reflect on His Word, I want to find that little jewel in Scripture that I missed the last time. I want to find that word, cross reference, Hebrew/Greek, or some other hidden Fact to gain some new insight. While that certainly is powerful, and I admit fun and fascinating, if it doesn't change me, it's just noise.

So as I almost glanced over this well known verse (to me anyway) in my reading, I felt Him slow me down so I could reflect.
"And [Abram] believed the LORD, and he counted it to him as righteousness." Genesis 15:6
How did he stand righteous before the One, True, Living God? He believed Him and His promise.
I imagine myself in a dark and/or confusing time of my life, and I hear or read His promises to me. Do I continue in my darkness and confusion, or do I simply trust and believe Him? Do I simply say I trust His plan for my life, or do I believe He has a plan for my life? Do I say I know He loves me, He forgives me, He calls me, He holds me, He protects me, He saves me, or do I believe it too.

May I stand righteous before God, not because of my doing, but because of my believing.

Empty me of me father ...

His,
~Matthew

This thought reminds me of "Believing is Seeing"
http://seeingthepiecesfit.blogspot.com/2013_01_01_archive.html
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