Thursday, December 31, 2015

A Clear Conscience or a Shipwrecked Faith


When that glorious day arrives when Christ returns, nothing else will matter. As a pastor of a local church near our family's vacation home reminded me this weekend, "In 100 years from now, all that will matter is your relationship with God."

We are in a war - not with flesh and blood - but a spiritual army far more formidable that our feeble minds and bodies. However while the enemy can have his way with me, he cannot have his way with the One that fights for me. As Tozer said ...
I’m not afraid of the devil. The devil can handle me — he’s got judo I never heard of, But he can’t handle the One to whom I am joined; he can’t handle the One to whom I’m united; he can’t handle the One whose nature dwells in my nature. — A. W. Tozer
Yet when we wage this war, there is something that we should never let go ... a good conscience.
This charge I entrust to you, Timothy, my child, in accordance with the prophecies previously made about you, that by them you may wage the good warfare, holding faith and a good conscience. By rejecting this, some have made shipwreck of their faith, (1 Timothy 1:18-19 ESV)


What a great opportunity on the last day of the year, to be reminded that we need to keep our conscience clear. May we never let pride hold back repentance, our recognition of our sins, and our need for a savior; daily! May our walk with Jesus, while at times stumbling, never be seen empty while we try to hide sins in the dark (as if He doesn't see every dark corner of our life). May our faith be carried like a healthy ship on the sea, even in storms, always upright.

When we close our eyes to sin, conscience, and the Holy Spirit, we leave the wheelhouse empty, and can quickly run aground ...

May we never be shipwrecked.

His,
~Matthew


Saturday, December 26, 2015

The Elephant in the Room

This are two of my (three now) stuffed traveling companions I take with me on business trips. They are posing with an elephant friend of theirs that they met at our table at the hotel restaurant - which I managed to convince the establishment to sell me as a souvenir! Perhaps this elephant in my room I have now at home will remind me of these words I write now ... 
When reading through Matthew, Jesus goes through a list of woes set out before the Scribes and Pharisees. One of them describes how they participated in one part of the law, without participating in others. He mentioned to them that they were tithing, yet they ignored more weightier matters of the law when they should have been doing both. This really highlights two important factors to me:

  1. They should have been striving to obey all the law, not just parts.
  2. Some parts are weightier than others.

It is this second observation that I really want to think about. What laws did He specifically mention that seemed to hold more weight?
"... you have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness ... " Matthew 23:23 (ESV)
In fact, Jesus even compared this logic (of choosing to tithe and ignore justice, mercy, and faithfulness) to "straining out a gnat and swallowing a camel!"

Straining out a gnat and swallowing a camel ... it resonates with me that often the more important commands are not the easiest, but they are the most obvious.

How am I doing with that elephant in the room? Am I checking boxes, or am I passionate about the more weightier and obvious matters like justice, mercy, and faithfulness?

Reflecting,
~Matthew

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Loopholes and Linguistics

Sometimes we like running ...

Sometimes we like running from things ...


Sometimes we like running from the Truth ... take this verse for instance:
"No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God's seed abides in him, and he cannot keep on sinning because he has been born of God." - (1 John 3:9 ESV)
As a Christian, we can and should be immediately convicted by the sins present in our life. Perhaps I'm the only Christian that struggles at times with pride, gossip, anger, etc. but verses like this tend to stop me in my [reading] tracks. Does this reflect me I ask?

Then comes the analysis of the words, the linguistics break out, and translations are compared to the Greek (or Hebrew) in hopes to have a deeper insight into the passage. Ah! It says "practice" of sinning - phew! I'm good then, after all, since I'm working on that issues, it's not like I have a "practice" of doing it ... sure it's a pattern, but tomorrow I'll start fresh! Right? Correct?

We are correct (in a way) - the only One perfect in Heaven will be God and the only thing man-made in heaven will be Christ's wounds. However, can we just read the Text?

STOP sinning ... just stop! No loopholes, no linguistics, just stop!

This isn't a debate, a courtroom, a discussion, an English class, so let's just read the Text and apply it to our life - not the other way around.

I don't want a deeper understanding of Theology more than I want a deeper relationship with Jesus, so may my theology reflect that ...

His,
~Matt

IRL

With our church hosting a Living Nativity it got me thinking about Emmanuel, God with us ... not as a reflection of the past, but as a representation of our present. He came and was with His people then, but He remains with His people still today.


I haven't heard the term IRL used in quite a while (In Real Life). Usually used when the Internet boom and social-like media began with chat rooms and e-mail, people used to refer to doing things IRL or meeting each other IRL.

However after reading Oswald Chambers the other day, he mentioned something that made me reflect yet again on the difference between the virtual and the real. Let me try to explain my point ... or his point the way it impacted me:
"We begin to pout, become irritated with God, and then say, "Oh well, I can't help it. I prayed and things didn't turn out right anyway. So I'm simply going to give up on everything." Just think what would happen if we acted like this in any other area of our lives!" - Oswald Chambers
If our relationship with God and how we treat Him is different than other areas of our life, what does that say about our faith? If we treat God as if he were an Internet acquaintance that we don't really know IRL, then God is not God to us. He's merely an attempted stop-gap measure to get us by - and when He doesn't appear to meet our worldly needs, we try to find another stop-gap.

This scene isn't just a reenactment of a story, but a representation of a Truth that is more real than anything else around us.

May you and I find Christmas this season - may you and I seek Christmas this season.

Blessings,
~Matthew

Friday, December 18, 2015

What you hate, shows what you love ...

Sometimes in my darker moments I look at myself in the mirror (physically or metaphorically) and ask myself, "Am I really saved? Am I really a follower of Christ with how much I stumble? Am I not being a hypocrite?"

Of course the world has answers. Though in this world of relative truth and Maslow's self actualization (almost a modern day Athens during the times of Christ) the answer we get never really satisfies. Be yourself, follow your heart, and let society determine what is right and wrong. Yet still it never satisfies - it reminds me of this quote:
“If I find in myself desires which nothing in this world can satisfy, the only logical explanation is that I was made for another world.” - C.S. Lewis
Thankful for Truth
However the True and theological answer is that we can indeed find answers to these questions. There are many passages that I've heard individuals use, but reading through Romans chapter 6 today I was struck by this passage that many of you may know.
For when you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness. But what fruit were you getting at that time from the things of which you are now ashamed? For the end of those things is death. But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the fruit you get leads to sanctification and its end, eternal life. (Romans 6:20-22 ESV)
So how does this help? I will at least tell you how it helps me in a very brief and simple sense.

In my "B.C. years", Pride, Anger, and Lust (among other sins) were not things that I struggled with. I don't mean I didn't sin in them, I just didn't struggle. Being a slave to these sins, I felt free in regard to righteousness because righteousness simply had no hold on me; Christ had no hold because I never reached out my hand. However now, these sins I not only struggle with, I hate. I may still sin, but I am not a slave to them. The enemy may use my feelings of hate towards sin (reminded me of the fact I sinned) to show that I am unfit for the the Kingdom of God. Yet it is this hate for sin that actually answers where my allegiance now lies; with God; with Christ. What you hate, shows what you love ...

Enjoying being a Bondservant to Christ.
~Matthew

You Are Whoever

I know I say this occasionally, but I think it's worth another mention though, especially as I go through stages where I start to write more often. This site/blog is first and foremost my personal journal. Since it is public, there are certain things that I don't specifically talk about due to privacy (that I may perhaps in a personal diary) but it is still very personal nonetheless to me. This medium (an online blog) suits me well as it keeps my thoughts organized, permanent, and allows me to see growth as well as recurring victories and struggles through the history of my writings.

However, since I have no greater passion that I like to talk about than my faith, I choose to share these with others. I have often had conversations with friends (that I know personally or online acquaintances) that through this has opened wonderfully deep conversations - and for that, I continue to share. I'm not here to debate and argue, I'm just here to share my faith for my own personal growth, and encouragement of others.Take it or leave it.

This is just a journal about my amazing God that just so happens to be as crazy about you as He is me.

You're the whoever too ...
“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. (John 3:16 ESV)
His,
~Matthew

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Ask for Permission, or Ask for Forgiveness?

Have you ever heard the expression: "Forgiveness is easier to ask for than permission?"

The expression is usually used in jest, and not meant to do real harm. Forgive my ridiculous example, but just in case you haven't heard the expression used, I wanted to give it some context.
Worker 1: "We aren't supposed to use the color printer unless necessary; we should ask first."
Worker 2: "Yeah, but it's still work related, and I think it would be really helpful. Besides, forgiveness is easier to ask for than permission! Haha
I've been known to even use it myself ... when eating that last cookie, or drinking that last soda, or some other rather silly and minor situation ...

However, I don't think our actions reflect that we only express this attitude in jest. In fact, during the most critical moments of our life, I feel we look at God sometimes and think: "Eh, forgiveness is easier to ask for than permission."

Why, because He is loving, kind, and forgiving? Yes, but why is He so ...
Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God's kindness is meant to lead you to repentance? (Romans 2:4 ESV)
The whole point ... is to lead us to repentance.

We must repent.

After all, this forgiveness that we are offered so freely did not come without a cost. The Author of Life Himself paid the cost by spilled His own blood as payment for this forgiveness we take for granted all to often.

Let us never forget the cost. Granting us the opportunity to repent is in itself the gift.

Next time, if the thought of asking God permission is not something we want to do because we know the answer ... then ... well ... we have the answer ...

His,
~Matthew

But you say ...

Reading through Malachi there was a recurring theme that resulted in man questioning the accusations or comments made from God. This pattern of God observing something and the people asking in reply for examples reminded me of myself. How often do I perhaps defend accusations in hopes to be found innocent, and instead lose the opportunity to confess, learn, and grow.

"But you say ..."
How have you loved us? (1:2)
How have we despised your name? (1:6)
How have we polluted you? (1:7)
Why does he not [regard our offerings]? (2:14)
How have we wearied him? (2:17)
How shall we return? (3:7)
How have we robbed you? (3:8)
How have we spoken against you? (3:13)


Perhaps a frozen ice slide is a slippery slope that can produce much joy, but questioning God is a slippery slope that will ultimately produce quite the opposite of joy.

The next time we feel God tugging at our heart, trying to get our attention, and perhaps place on us a conviction that needs to be brought into the light; may we not dismiss it with excuses. May we not ask God to prove Himself. May we not attempt to hide behind our sin with ignorance (James 4:17).

Better yet, before our Lord needs to speak to us regarding our wandering hearts, perhaps we can take the initiative. Perhaps each night ... tonight ... you and I simply ask God to reveal where we have not loved Him.

A comment to a coworker, a reaction to a family member, a dishonest statement, the time we were going to make with Him that never happened, ignoring a need, giving her a second glance ...

We need not ask Him if we have fallen short, but simply where and when.

May we confess, repent, and grow.

His,
~Matthew

Saturday, December 12, 2015

His Fire

Amidst the prophecy, warnings, destruction, protection, promises, and visions. Amidst the messages; some easy to understand, some difficult, and some frighteningly clear. Amidst the historical chaos of the time God's people were in, there is much to sit with in these words from Zechariah.

Today however, Zechariah 13:9 was yet again shown to me as a reminder of what the remnant of God's people will see. Not just fires of persecution or judgement, but fires of refinement. I've spoken, written, and thought about this before, but I will do so again.

And I will put this third into the fire,
and refine them as one refines silver,
and test them as gold is tested.
They will call upon my name,
and I will answer them.
I will say, ‘They are my people’;
and they will say, ‘The LORD is my God.’”


I don't think I will ever choose to step into the fire.
     I don't think I will ever feel I'm ready.
          I don't think I will ever like being in the fire.

... yet I trust Him.

When I look back, all of my growth has been after the refining fire; not in days of plenty, but learned through days in need.

The comforting part is that He knows when I'm ready for the fire. While I may not willfully step into the flames, I willfully step into His Hand; a hand that at times will guide me there. Left unrefined, we remain in our current state. Yet once refined, we are made into something much more beautiful, pure, and better yet, useful!

May we continue to surrender to His will in the chaos of our lives, and let His loving, guiding, and all-knowing hand carry us into ... and out of ... His Fire.

His,
~Matthew

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Shadow of the Cross

Discipleship continues to challenge me, and I seem to find passages reminding me of The Great Commission often. Last night was no exception as I began to read through Zechariah. A particular verse from a passage in chapter 3 reminded me of this call yet again.
In that day, declares the LORD of hosts, every one of you will invite his neighbor to come under his vine and under his fig tree. (Zechariah 3:10 ESV)
As always, I encourage you to read in context. This particular prophecy (chapter 3) surrounds Joshua and ultimately the coming Messiah. That day refers to the fulfillment of the prophecy and the invitation is, well, a call to invite.

Regardless if we look at this passage in the context of earlier times (Joshua), or prophetically (Jesus the Messiah), we are in fact living in that day that is spoken of in this passage. With this knowledge I ask myself two questions:

  1. Am I living out a life that reflects the recognition of my amazing privilege I have being witness to His revealed promise in the Messiah through Jesus Christ? Do I recognize the Glory of that day that has been revealed?
  2. Am I inviting my neighbors to come under His vine and fig tree? Am I inviting others to be part of this amazing family and reap its fruit?
Or perhaps there is just one question that sums my thoughts up ...

Are we living a life in the shadow of the Cross, or are we living a life that casts a shadow on the cross?

Monday, November 23, 2015

White As Snow



Saturday morning my wife called attention to our Japanese Red Maple. It was becoming covered in white snow as our first snowfall of the season began to change the landscape all around us from fall to winter, very quickly. I went outside with my camera and captured this picture for her. However as I snapped the picture I could not help but think of this verse:
“Come now, let us reason together, says the LORD: though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool. (Isaiah 1:18 ESV) 
As I stared at the scene outside, and stare at the picture now, I can't help but imagine all that has been accomplished for me on the Cross. Even later that day into Sunday, many of the red seen in this picture was stripped away completely as the weight of the white snow was no match for a decaying leaf. Sin is no match for the price that Christ paid on the cross.

Oh what a glorious reality is the one that this picture represents!

Perhaps sadness could overtake me as I stare at that tree.  Not because it reminds me of sin in general, but sin in a very personal way. I would need a much larger tree for each leaf to represent one of the many sins of mine that died on the cross. Yet instead I rejoice because in Christ, that is indeed what they are, dead.

Paid in full, by the blood of Christ.

Enjoy the song ...

His,
Matthew
-sdg

♫ Jesus paid it all, 
All to Him I owe;
Sin had left a crimson stain, 
He washed it white as snow
O Praise the one who paid my debt
And raised this life up from the dead ♫


Thursday, November 12, 2015

Reaction, not the Action

As a parent I am continually challenged by the various ways in which I need to discipline, encourage, and guide my children. While there is an overarching biblical direction by which I parent, I still have to approach each child differently.  For instance, one of my children's biggest struggle during discipline is not their action, but rather their reaction. I correct them on a specific issue, and their reaction creates a knee-jerk response that often lands them in more trouble than when they started, if they were even in trouble to begin with! The simplest thing can turn a non-situation into something that needs serious addressing.

Recently reading through 2 Chronicles 26 it struck me how Uzziah ran into this very same issue. He decided that he would walk into the temple and burn incense. Azariah and another 80 priests stood their ground against him that he should not do this, as it was the role of priests. In fact, Uzziah was plagued with leprosy over this incident, which ultimately lead to his death.

However it wasn't the burning of incense that caused it, it was something else. You see, leprosy broke out not when he walked into the temple, not when he held the censer in his hand, but when he became angry over their rebuke. It is after this that Scripture tells us he broke out in leprosy.

What can I learn from Uzziah thousands of years later? Perhaps the better question is what do we have in common at times, and without a hesitation I raise my hand and say "pride". 

Going back to my child, while I certainly need to discipline and guide, I must remember that while I correct, I too am being corrected. They may show pride in their reaction to a situation, but no differently than I can list out the times that pride creeps into my life. I cannot excuse sin, but I can show forgiveness like I have been forgiven. I am encouraged and free to correct my children, but may I also freely and openly accept being corrected by my heavenly Father.

May I not be like Uzziah, where I become hardened to a proper rebuke from godly counsel.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

The Elimination

A Previous Elimination Scene from the TV Show MasterChef Junior
As we were sitting down yesterday watching one of our favorite TV shows, MasterChef Junior, I watched as the contestants approached for the elimination scene. Being brought forward, and separated into two groups, they were unaware of their outcome.

Am I going home?

Am I staying?
Did I do enough?
Did I not mess up too much?

They were either going to exhale in relief, and walk back to their station to fight another day, or they would be asked to depart. Either their journey would continue, or it would end. Yet this moment, while stressful I'm sure, pales in comparison to what awaits each of them in the future; each of us.

When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. And he will place the sheep on his right, but the goats on the left. Then the King will say to those on his right, 'Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.' (Matthew 25:31-34 ESV)
Wow! That is one elimination challenge I want to win!

So after this news, what did the sheep do, the ones on His right that inherited the kingdom? Did they, like the ones from so many reality shows after an elimination, breathe a sigh of relief? Did they go celebrate, cheer, or even gloat? Did they walk away with a sense of pride? Did they sit and ponder with understanding what they accomplished? Actually, not at all. In fact Jesus even told them why they were selected. He said when I was hungry, thirsty, estranged, naked, sick, or in prison, that you fed me, gave me something to drink, welcomed me, clothed me, visited me, and came to me.

Yet when they heard this news, they did not smile and feel prideful, accomplished, or even recognize such praise. They had no understanding of what they did. They essentially looked at the Judge, and said: "Really? When? When did I do this? I didn't even know I did!"

And I'm guessing you may remember how He responded? Jesus said that when they did those things for the least of these, they did it for Him.

And they didn't even know.

They didn't know because they weren't trying to earn. Their eye was not on the works, though the works mattered, their eye was on their King and His commands. The real prize. Their love for the Lord naturally overflowed into works.

And those to His left? The goats? I will let you read on your own what happens at this elimination ... 

So what do we do with this information? Do we wonder if we are a sheep or goat? Do we wait and see? Do we take confidence in our salvation? Do any of these ways of thinking lead to us doubting our salvation? Do any of these ways of thinking lead to false pride, false hope, and ultimately a false truth?

I have come to a place where my salvation is not my focus; Jesus is my focus. Jesus will work out everything, I need not ponder. He is Just. Besides, I'm not here on this planet to spend my life working out my salvation, I'm here to do His Will. He commanded me to go and make disciples, so I suppose that is what I should do.


So rather than feel bad about the goats, and live a life trying to make sure I'm not one of the goats, how about I introduce a goat to Jesus, and give them an opportunity to switch sides. How about I spend time being what He called me to be. How about I spend time living life with crazy faith. How about I get off the balance beam and take a chance ...


Friday, September 4, 2015

Frozen Peas and Spiritual Growth


So last night I came home from band/worship practice with a piercing headache; rather more of a migraine. As I lay on my bed with a frozen bag of peas on my head ... yes peas ... ok hold on ...
Let me stop for a moment as I endorse something. Last time I had a headache I was laying on my bed and asked my wife for an ice pack. She brought over not an ice pack, but a frozen bag of peas. Really? Frozen peas? Is this the 1950's? Perhaps steak next time? Well, apparently our ice packs were in the outside fridge, which for the record keeps things at a nice consistent room temperature; yeah, it's working great. Anyway, in lieu of using a tepid sack of nothingness on my head from the outside fridge/freezer, I was thankful to have something. And you know what? Wow do they rock! Cold, long lasting, and completely flexible and conforming to your head ... super! I'm buying more ... I get my ice packs from Trader Joe's.
So back to my story, yes, a frozen bag of petite peas from Trader Joe's was placed on my head and it was quite lovely.

A while later, it started to go away, so thankful! And as it was dispersing I was overcome with the amazing feeling of relief. Even though nothing physically changed in my life, I actually felt better than before my headache even started! Ever experience that? Stomach aches are the same for me too ... they are horrible ... but once I get the feeling that it's gone, and the pain goes away, the amazing sense of relief comes over me and I feel emotionally fantastic!

What a great feeling!

As the peas were tossed to the floor (in the bag still, don't worry) I shared this with my wife and we related it to Spiritual Growth. The pain, suffering, challenges, and discomfort that life can bring, if channeled through Him, will leave us with this amazing sense of appreciation, thankfulness, and matured faith. As a human, we can psychologically be thankful for lessons learned through challenges and manage them better next time (one worldview). Or, with a Christian worldview, we can have the same benefits in addition to drawing closer to God in a very real way. We don't just have the confidence and fortitude to fight the battle better next time, we know Who really fights for us, and can rest in Him no matter where life leads. We may not be able to expect how life will be, but we know what to expect from Him. There is a reality out there that is waiting for all of us to discover that you have to believe first in order to see.

The sense of relief that comes from a passing headache pales in comparison to the relief that comes from His Truth. I pray you come to know Him.

However, the challenge is, you can't "Give God a shot." thinking all along that this faith thing is weird but wait for something magical to happen - that's not how He works. You give Him your life, and you have a new one in return. Why bother? All I can say is that it's worth the sacrifice - and as I stumble along with my own foolishness and sins, I still can say that I desire Him to be the center of everything in my life. He constantly guides me, corrects me when I'm being stupid, and loves on me each step of the way. Before He returns, or before you close your eyes for the last time on this earth, I pray you make the right choice on the most important decision in your life.
"The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned." 1 Corinthians 2:14
I know this sounds foolish to many; as it did to me at one time. After all, if God was real, wouldn't He just show up, prove Himself, say who He was, throw around some powers/miracles to amaze people, and at least tell people the truth to end all this confusion?

     He did - that was Jesus

His,
~Matt


Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Before Moving On


There have been times I've walked away from a situation, individual, or group thinking to myself: If they don't want to accept this, so be it, it's on them.

In fact, if this act of moving away is due to my faith being ridiculed, not received, or bitterly rejected, I often can cite biblical examples of how God's messengers moved on from a place that did not welcome them. Sometimes it is simply out of comfort to avoid conflict, sometimes it's more personal from family and friends that think me idiotic for my beliefs, and sometimes it is because I am all but pushed away physically.

However I think there is a passage from Acts 18 that paints a complete picture of this scenario that is worth reflecting on.

... and he reasoned in the synagogue every Sabbath, and tried to persuade Jews and Greeks. When Silas and Timothy arrived from Macedonia, Paul was occupied with the word, testifying to the Jews that the Christ was Jesus. And when they opposed and reviled him, he shook out his garments and said to them, “Your blood be on your own heads! I am innocent.” ...
(Acts 18:4-6a ESV)

Before Paul disconnected himself from them after they opposed and reviled him, he did three very important things

  1. He reasoned with them
  2. He tried to persuade them
  3. He testified to them
I know there are times I have tried to reason with someone in discussion about my faith, sometimes attempted to persuade them, and even (more importantly I think) testify to them not only that Jesus was the Christ, but a personal testimony as well.

Yet, I sadly can recall more times that I simply didn't even want to get into it for fear of an argument, more frustration, or trying to avoid deeper earthly wounds (ignoring the eternal impact). Sometimes I even hesitated to share my faith on a deeper level with those really close to me, or at work, because I feel my own life doesn't honor Christ like I think it should. After all, those closest to me know my failures all too well. However that is a pernicious lie from the depths of hell that continues to try and convince us that salvation is about deserving and earning, and not about Grace.

So before we shake out our garments and move on, give up, and walk away; are we sure we have done our part? Have we reasoned? Have we attempted to persuade? Have we testified?

Father, grant me the courage to climb above the lies of the enemy onto the solid ground of Your Truth. I confess my lack of faith and my reliance on self when thinking that I am more than I am. Give me the courage and words to use when reasoning, persuading, and testifying to Your Holy Name. Show me discernment for opportunities that you bring me, and do continue to bring them to me, even with as many opportunities that I have let slip by. Thank you for allowing these confessions to fill me with love and not guilt through your Grace poured out on me by your Son Jesus in Who's Name I pray. Amen.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Sow So


I had a novel idea this year when it came to my garden. I decided to plant what I actually wanted to eat! Amazing huh? Well, in previous years I continued to plant things that I found fun to watch grow, but not so fun to eat. Zuchinni, squash, eggplant for example. Lovely veggies, but not on the top of my list personally. I love greens (kale, spinach), peppers (hot and mild) and plenty of herbs to spice up my kitchen.

          After all, you should sow what you want to reap. (see what I did there?)

However, in reading through Proverbs 6 today after reflecting with my wife, I come across this passage (emphasis added by me) ...
There are six things that the LORD hates, seven that are an abomination to him: haughty eyes, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked plans, feet that make haste to run to evil, a false witness who breathes out lies, and one who sows discord among brothers. (Proverbs 6:16-19)
If we take a look at that word discord, among some of the more popular definitions, I found three key words that were common throughout:

   Disagreement
      Lack of Harmony
         Unpleasant in Nature

How would one sow disagreement, lack of harmony, or even just something unpleasant? I can think of no better weapon to cause that type of destruction than our very own words. The tongue continues to be such a deadly weapon against humanity.

"Did God really say?" ... sowing discord from the beginning ...

Additonally, let us not forget two other words mentioned in that passage; hate and abomination. This is not an issue our Lord takes lightly. The church is a place for us to grow in Christ, not in the flesh. Christ at the head, but still with imperfect human leadership. We need to remember that just because we disagree with something, does not mean we are right. We need to come together to seek His Word through our differences, not the desires of our flesh. Pride will be a forever present enemy of our own self, and the church.
... and one who sows discord among brothers.
We all have a group of friends we are more comfortable with, we connect with, and God has led us to. We need to be the ones that as soon as we see discord rear its ugly head in our own sphere of influence, we snuff it out.

With what though?

          Love.

Meditate on that word for a moment ... right now ...

     Love.

Perhaps when we think about it at home, in our church group, or even with our workplace relationships and beyond, we can ask ourself one simple question during a discussion:

Is love present?

Do I sense discord, or love?
Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins. (1 Peter 4:8 ESV)
God so loved, so we love.

His,
Matthew

Breaking a Commandment: by Thanking God




“You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain, for the LORD will not hold him guiltless who takes his name in vain." - Exodus 20:7 
When you think about taking God’s Name in vain, what do you think about? For me, a few examples immediately come to mind which I do not even want to put in print. I’ve also talked before about hearing or seeing many individuals, even Christians, use the acronym OMG. The use is equally insulting, even if the claim is that the letter G is not God but goodness. It doesn't change the implication that in our culture that acronym is more commonly known otherwise. I strongly feel we need to abstain from any use of such terminology.

Regardless, slipping up in this area is very rare for me; so while not perfect, I got this commandment pretty well under control right? Well, He has opened my eyes to things that I previously have not seen. Perhaps, some of these may surprise you, but here are some recent examples of my sinful use of taking His Name in vain.

  • Only by the Grace of Jesus Christ
  • Thank you Jesus
  • Help me Lord
               Confused? I’ll try to explain.

On our way to my father’s house for a small gathering for Father’s Day, we needed to stop by Kroger to pick something up. I dropped my wife off at the door and proceeded to park the vehicle while she ran in the store. (This particular Kroger needs a serious logistics expert to come in as their parking system is, well … anyway, I digress.) I wasn’t frustrated at all, in fact it was a beautiful day and I was quite relaxed, even with the parking lot chaos. I did end up finding a parking spot after a while, but it was only shortly before my wife was done and already walking to the car. She gets in the vehicle, we smile at each other, and she makes a comment that she was surprised I actually found a parking spot. I smile back and reply: “It was only by the Grace of Jesus Christ I found one, this lot is crazy.”

Ouch. Really Matt? The Grace of Jesus Christ is reduced to a parking spot privilege?

While we can have a separate conversation on the little blessings of life, and God’s involvement, this had nothing to do with that; the issue here is about sincerity.  I was not meditating on the immeasurable gift of Grace through Christ … I really wasn't even thanking God, I was making joke; a joke of Grace. Unintentionally, sure, but no longer as it has now been brought into the Light.

     ... but let us take a brief step back.

If we go to the passage from Exodus above, the word shav’ (transliterated) is used for the word vain. When the definition is examined, one word keeps coming up to describe this word; emptiness. If there is one thing that the Lord’s Name is not, It is empty.

This can at times even be seen in the seemingly innocent phrase: Thank You Jesus.

Are my thanks to Jesus like someone passing me salt at the dinner table, where I may not even make eye contact while I quietly utter the words thanks? Worse, is it like my example above, almost made in jest? Or is it similar to when I receive a gift from my wife, look at her in the eyes, smile, and thank her from my heart?

Thanking God doesn’t always require deep meditative thought. In fact, like any relationship, I think as we draw closer to Him, the more we will react in thanks; even for the very small things ... so long as it holds meaning. Many times I quickly thank Him for something and it is honest, true, and sincere. However there are other times ...

Simply put, are our words empty, or full of meaning? What about these phrases:

  • We’ll have to get together soon.
  • I’ll be praying for you.
  • If you need anything, let me know.
They sound wonderful, but do they have a fullness behind them when they leave our lips? I'm sure we all have lifted individuals up in heartfelt prayer, but I'm willing to guess we have also failed to do so, or do so with an attentive heart as we approach the King of Kings at His Throne in prayer.

May our words build ...
"Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear." (Ephesians 4:29 ESV)
May our words bring Him glory ...
"Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father." (Philippians 2:9-11 ESV)
... and may they never be shav' ... empty.

His,
~Matthew

Friday, June 19, 2015

Toothbrush Thoughts


  • Yes this is a tile wall
  • Yes this is in a shower
  • Yes this is my shower
  • Yes that's a decision tree
  • Yes that's a poor representation of a decision tree, but it fit my tiles and my thoughts for today so well ... anyway ... now that that's out of the way, let's continue ... ;)


I'm about to give you a small glimpse into my mind. I apologize in advance for any therapy needs that this may create. It's not my intention to hurt your brain, just a thought that came to mind. I felt I should share more of these, as after all, His Path, Daily is indeed an opportunity for me to share how God is active in my life on a daily basis.

In the shower? Yes ... now stop the tangents ... focus.

Oh look, shiny bunny ...

So I'm sitting here brushing my teeth in the shower; OK, standing. And I start thinking about my teeth, dental hygiene, yada yada and my mind starts to wander to the past. I pondered orthodontist appointments when I was a kid ... and then I remembered extractions. Not the most glorious thought, but whatever, it's in the past. Then I started thinking that I should visit the dentist again soon (sometime in the next few years probably, right?) ... anyway ... remembering past cleanings, xrays, and then the thought of wisdom teeth came to mind! Because of my earlier extractions, and recent visits to the dentist, I was told that I may not need removals because I may have just enough room ... but what if I didn't?!

Then my mind went to the procedure ... and anesthesia ... local? general? Oh boy, I've never had general anesthesia! What if I am sleeping and I still feel pain like some of those terrible stories! *chokes on toothpaste* ... Or what if I go to sleep and ... well ... ah!

Brushing my teeth is scary!

OK, perhaps not. However my point drifts back up to my photo. I stared at the tile wall and imagined a decision tree on the wall. I was reminded that I am pondering something not only in the future, but something that may not even happen. I imagined each square being a decision tree going forward, and was reminded that God doesn't want us to leave the future to Him because He wants us to be in the dark, but so we can remain in the light. Worry, anxiety, and wanting control over things in the future does not do well for our flesh, soul, and even those around us as we react to these negative thoughts.

And friends, this I know I am not alone on.

You may be thinking that this post is about as unoriginal as they come. Don't worry about the future. You've heard it so many times. Of course you have ... but I think you need to hear it every day, I know I do.

Perhaps when I jump in the shower next time, I won't see a decision tree with spider webs ahead of me, but rather a neat list of choices in front of me; for today.

So what do you need to think about ... today?

Just make those decisions ... and when we brush our teeth, or brush off yesterday, we can freshly look with proper focus on the present.

And for the best part? God isn't just holding our future ... He's with you holding your present.

His,
~Matt


Thursday, June 18, 2015

Walking Away



As I have mentioned several times, there are many things that drew me to Christ. Initially, as I questioned things, it was more intellectual. Science, history, and reason brought me to a Creator, but Christ through His Holy Spirit changed my heart, allegiance, and life forever.

Faith was never a blind thing for me, in fact it was and continues to be quite the opposite; it is the most intellectually stimulating thing I do. I may spend a lot of time at work in code, databases, spreadsheets, managing issues, and sometimes teams and projects. However nothing piques my interest more than sitting down with His Word, the words of a deceased (or sometimes living!) theologian, or staring out my window on a dark quiet night talking to my creator, listening, or just standing in awe of His works.


I absolutely love sharing and discussing not only what I am learning, but how God is working in my life. Why? Because the best part is that the words on the page are just a reflection of what He is doing in my life. God reveals Himself through His Word, and others, but Truth is a gift from Him that resonates in me; testimony is something that simply reflects reality. You can take away my books, you can try to poke holes in my logic, you can deny what I believe, but you can't take away God and what He has done in my life.

I may be much more well versed in Scripture, have a better foundation on theology, and could explain my faith much better than I did a year ago, than I did 3 years ago, and certainly 10 years ago. However the real change was not words on a page, but the fact that Jesus reached in and took a hold of my heart and threw my world upside down.

This is why ... as I get emotional even writing these words ... that it just crushes my heart when I watch someone I called a brother in Christ lay down his cross and give up and walk away (which happened to me just recently).

A very non-emotional, cards on the table, shake your hand, good bye.

I felt speechless ... but not without Words coming over my thoughts ...
"but whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven." (Matthew 10:33 ESV)
Two particular things are on my mind now that I would like to share. I won't be too long winded as I really would like you to ponder this as well, but I think these things are important to consider.

1) Imagination vs. Logic

As I've said before, my journey started with much logic, reason, and reflection. However that is just part of my journey. If there is a Creator of the universe, imagine how much knowledge said Creator must have? Imagine "all" knowledge there is to be had; impossible to even do I would say, but try. Compared to how much we know? So while logic, questioning, and reason are great, and encouraged in Scripture, it will never all-satisfy. Trying to do so may even drive you mad ...
"Imagination does not breed insanity. Exactly what does breed insanity is reason. Poets do not go mad; but chess-players do. Mathematicians go mad, and cashiers; but creative artists very seldom. I am not, as will be seen, in any sense attacking logic: I only say that this danger does lie in logic, not in imagination." - G.K. Chesterton
2) Emotion and Faith

I can't imagine a more emotional thing than submitting yourself before God and worshiping Him in song, action, and love. As a man, how does our culture treat men with emotion? It means we are weak, unstable, and simple-minded. Sad really (ironically using emotion) that we have to live in a culture that stifles emotion [at least for men]. It is this that I feel concerns me the most. If men cannot connect to God on an emotional level, there is an empty relationship, and strong men will continue to walk away. Faith is described in Scripture, but I think Oswald does well with his perspective here as well:
"Faith is not some weak and pitiful emotion, but is strong and vigorous confidence built on the fact that God is holy love. And even though you cannot see Him right now and cannot understand what He is doing, you know Him." - Oswald Chambers

So where does this leave me?

Praying that I and others will love the intellectual stimulation that study provides, but not wholly lean on it; and certainly never forget the need to get to know Christ. This can't be done on a page, but rather in our hearts. You don't read about your spouse, you get to know your spouse; may we continue to know Him more each day, month, and passing year.

... so much so that walking away will seem like a divorce, not just opening a new book.

Hold Him tight ...

His,
~Matt

Oh Donuts!

My blog, His Path, Daily, is more than a tool I use to share my reflection time in His Word. For me, I want to return (or perhaps restructure) my ponderings into what that title, and often my mantra, really means; a daily awareness of how God is involved in my life. When I come across something that strikes me in Scripture, or an encouraging word that I want to share, I certainly will. However I hope that I get more than just readers, I want you to know me; and perhaps through our virtual or in-person conversations, I can get to know you as well.

I consider my readers friends, brothers, and sisters. I want this to be a table-side chat, not a silent lecture. I want my daily victories, struggles, and questions to be shared so that we can encourage each other. Life was not meant to live alone.

So anyway, back to my life ...

If you're a parent like me, I can't encourage you enough to make time for your children in a personal way. While I wish I would have done more of this earlier, I can at least be thankful for what I am doing now. I've always been an active and present dad, and enjoyed various trips and activities with the children, but we have a tradition that started that I think has blessed me more than them.

For over 2 years now I have kept mornings open for donuts and a chat at our local bakery with my children before work. Each one has their own day. 7AM is a bit early, but most of the time they awake with eagerness to spend time together and grab a bite to eat! My oldest, a senior in high-school when we started, and now busy with work, life, and school, wasn't often part of it unfortunately; and my youngest, just now 4 years old, has just started this hopefully long-term tradition.

You'll find me a few days a week early in the morning with the kids at our local donut shop sharing conversation, Scripture, laughs, and sugar! I try to stick to a wheat bagel and coffee, because 3 days at a donut shop a week can get pretty dangerous!! :)

2+ Years of Going Looney for Donuts!
Another cool thing we're looking forward to is taking my middle two children (13 and 9) to the TobyMac concert in October! My daughter, so passionate for Christ and Music both, I'm sure will be blown away. My son, while reserved a bit in his personality, I think will very much enjoy himself. I think he will love to see so much excitement for God in one large area. He, like me of my youth, tends to bottle up some emotions in lieu of showing them. I pray that this will break that shell a bit and he can taste and see how Good He is indeed! :)



Being Intentional,
~Matthew

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Dying Weather



I'm a visual person, and an emotional one as well. I hear and even speak at times of being in the desert; an analogy for a spiritual dry season. The business of life can get us off track and off His path. Focus is lost, time in the Word declines, and prayer is sometimes an afterthought. It is a symbol of wandering, being lost, and without direction. Away from home.

However I think there is a more dangerous and damaging season than this "desert".

     It is the winter.

Winter isn't discussed much in Scripture, but when it is, it paints a vivid picture for me; danger.

It is not a time to wander, it is a time to take caution.

In certain regions like the Mediterranean, both travel on land and sea was not advised. When winter hit, it was best to stay put until it was over. Even when Paul was writing Timothy (2 Tim 4) he ends with reminding him to do his best to arrive before winter (similar themes can be seen elsewhere). When Jesus speaks of the end times (i.e. in Mark 13, or Matthew 24) the perspective of winter adds an additional chill to the picture.

Winter. Caution.

It really is not much different in 2015 in the mid-west though is it? With warm houses, 4 wheel drive vehicles, and an infrastructure that is ready for it, we do well in the winter. However it is only safe because we are prepared (more on that later). Imagine no vehicle, no snowplow, and then a power outage, and lack of food and water supply on hand. This can be dangerous even for a developed society.

A play on words, creative semantics? Perhaps. However while the desert is dangerous indeed, and both require food and water, there is something different about a chill that just won't loosen its grip. There is something that wreaks of death wandering into a frozen abyss on your feet alone. I recall many time sitting in 100 plus degree weather just finding shade to stay comfortable with a drink. Though I also recall many times sitting in negative degree weather thanking God that I was not out there on the streets; because I just can't picture surviving.

One time I was hunting with my brother in -32F degree weather in my camper! I recall him stepping outside for a moment and returning exclaiming in a shiver: "That's dying weather!"

It is indeed ...

For me I equate desert times with spiritual silence and wandering, while winter times more along the lines of spiritual disobedience.

"So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin."  (James 4:17 ESV)

I feel convicted each time I read that verse; and thankful for Christ.

... so back to preparing? Simple, but not easy; obedience. I see no other direct and easy path to destroying our self and others than sin. We are prone to it and we continue to struggle with it. Yet without honest reflection, prayer, and an ongoing relationship with the only One that knows how to deal with sin, we will wander not in silence, but in death.

Are we being cultural Christians, or relevant Christians? Are we Christians that reflect our culture, or are we Christians that reflect Christ in our culture?

I believe we may experience desert times without warning; but I think we have the opportunity to avoid being stranded in winter altogether.

I never want to see another spiritual winter ...

His,
~Matthew

Monday, May 18, 2015

When I Say No to Prayer


My wife at times will text me when things are difficult at home (children, schooling, friends, personal struggles, etc.) "Please pray for me."  Often times it will even come with some background on what her struggle currently is, so that I know how to pray for her.

So my response is typiccally to pull aside as soon as I am able, and lift her and the situation up in prayer. After all, away from the house, at work, there is not much I can do myself. So I have faith and cofidence that since I can't resolve the situation (or even address it in that moment) that I lift it to the One that does. He's helped coutless times before and I know He will again.

The only problem with my paragraph above is it should have began with the words: "I wish my response was ..."

All too often I immediately pick up the phone and call, and as it's ringing I prepare to solve the problem remotely. "I got this God" is what my actions speak. Did my wife want a solution? Did she want to rehash in the moment of her frustration everything that has been going on? What makes it even worse is that I am sometimes frustrated (the situation, children, even her) as she answers, because her problem became mine. She pauses in the middle of a conflict, takes a breath, and asks to be covered in prayer ... then she gets a phone call, and it's not from God.

For the record, in case you were really curious, that method isn't often successful. I know you are surprised. Is this because God hasn't shown Himself reliable? Is this because I found prayer to be unhelpful? Is this because my method has proven itself more reliable than His? Hardly.

If I could chart the peace and resolution to situations that occurred comparing my method over His you would think me insane for choosing the path I all too often choose. Why must I continue down this path of insanity? Why must I choose control so often over submission?

Why?

Sin. Pride.
"So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is a sin." James 4:17
As God reminded me of this recently through my wife I am working hard to let go. You think it would be easy with the success rate that I've had, but alas I am a control freak. While I know I'm not alone, I refuse to console myself with that fact of having company in my sin. It's a sin that needs to be dealt with. So I bring it into the Light and will learn to submit to His loving and all knowing Authority, Mercy, Grace, and Forgiveness.

Less calling, more praying,
Matthew

Friday, May 15, 2015

I'm Tofu, and So Are You


I wouldn't exactly say I'm a fan of Tofu. In fact, the idea of tofu being healthy in some Asian cuisine is taken to the extreme in the US when we decide that since Tofu can be good, we eat slabs of it daily ... moderation is lost on our society (and often myself) all too often.

But I digress ...

What's fascinating about tofu is that it takes on the flavors around it. It's hard to say you don't like the taste of tofu; texture perhaps. I say that because I've had some fascinating things made from tofu! Indian curry, stir fry's, and even an absolutely delicious chocolate mousse! The tofu in the blender took on the texture of a mousse and the melted dark chocolate turned this tasteless puree of nothingness into a protein packed chocolate treat.

Tofu tastes like ... well ... whatever it's cooked, soaked, and seasoned with.

I'm not digressing this time, that's my actual [attempted] point!

What are you soaking in?
     What are you seasoning yourself with?
          What are you being combined with in a fire that binds things together?

Maybe you're not tofu, maybe I'm the only one. I just know that what I watch and listen to has a way of changing me. I just know that too much time in the wrong environment begins to create a new normal for me. I just know that a long time in the wrong fire etches and burns things into me that are hard (if not impossible) to remove.

          I can't unhear things.
     I can't unsee things.
I can't undo things.

A few bitter ingredients doesn't ruin the dish, and in fact, a good dish can transform those bitter ingredients into something delicious. However, too much of them, and a dish becomes tainted.

"Too much salt, an insult. Not enough salt, an assault!" - A chef from the book: The Green Ember

While there are certainly things that never belong in our our life, to block any negative influence from the outside is not only impossible, it's also wrong. It is hard to put salt into the world if you lock yourself in your castle and never come out.

However, let us make sure that we soak in what we want others to taste.

His,
~Matthew

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Don't Walk Alone


If you have never read the story of Ruth, I encourage you to do so. There are some various passages that refer to some traditions, that unless you know the history and culture, may sound strange or simply be lost as you read. However, the core of the story is easy to understand, and coming across a passage I have wrote about before, I thought I'd share what was put on my heart this time.
Naomi speaks to Ruth (her daughter-in-law) after her husband and only two sons have died (obviously including Ruth's husband), leaving her now alone and widowed with her 2 widowed daughter-in-laws. Naomi is now departing back to be with her people and her homeland and before she leaves speaks:
"And [Naomi] said, “See, your sister-in-law has gone back to her people and to her gods; return after your sister-in-law.” But Ruth said, “Do not urge me to leave you or to return from following you. For where you go I will go, and where you lodge I will lodge. Your people shall be my people, and your God my God. Where you die I will die, and there will I be buried. May the LORD do so to me and more also if anything but death parts me from you.” (Ruth 1:15-17 ESV)
This story (and even this passage) has much to teach us, but where I want to land on is simply Ruth's witness she had to God in her mother-in-law Naomi, her mother-in-law. Ruth isn't choosing God based on some good Word she heard at the temple (though she could have). Ruth isn't choosing God because of some divine encounter (though she could have). Ruth isn't choosing God because it was her heritage (which it seems to be likely the opposite as she was a Moabite and likely grew up worshiping other gods including Molech).

Why did Ruth choose God? The reformers respond: because God chose Ruth. Well, I think either theological side can agree regardless of calling that the impact of their relationship was key in Ruth's future relationship with God. We are called to be witnesses, disciples, and to encourage and help ignite others to be disciples for Christ as well. God saves, but we are called to make disciples.

Why did Ruth choose God? I believe because Naomi was an active disciple of God. Ruth didn't have to speak of God, but she did. She could simply have said I will be with you until I die, but she didn't stop there. She could have said that I will be coming with you regardless if you want me to or not, but she didn't stop there. She needed to include that she was now a disciple too, she chose Naomi, but ultimately she chose God. "Your God will be my God now too Naomi."

I hear it often said that we all need a Paul or Naomi that is pouring into us, and a Ruth and Timothy that we pour into. Do you know a Ruth? Do you know a Naomi?

Call them now.

Don't walk alone, and don't let them walk alone.

His,
~Matthew

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

The Off-Season Life


Waking up in my pop-up camper, on a virtually vacant campground early in the season, putting on a pot of coffee, and opening up my Bible and devotional leaves me feeling amazingly content, relaxed, and focused. My life has been far more busy and stressful lately (at least I've let it be), and I have waited for these moments during the craziness of life. It's a great time to refocus, regenerate, and relax.

However, this is not reality. Perhaps better said, this is not my typical environment. The problem is that while I'm focused in this environment, I'm far less focused outside of it. While I'm relaxed in this environment, I'm far less relaxed outside of it. Quiet time is great, and a biblical need and model that Christ Himself displayed, but how am I when the quiet time is over?
"preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching." (2 Timothy 4:2 ESV)
In season and out of season. Whether my campground is quiet, or full of people and noise. Whether my life is taking a pause, or full of tasks, expectations, and work. Am I at my best only during my downtime? Am I waiting to feel inspired during these times alone, or am I letting myself be inspired by Him in the everyday moments of my life?
The proof that our relationship is right with God is that we do our best whether we feel inspired or not. - Oswald Chambers
We have been given the peace of God. (Philippians 4:7)
We have been given the God of Peace Himself. (Philippians 4:8)

These gifts of peace are for both our in-season life, and our off-season life. They are given to us so that we can be effective for His kingdom both in the times we feel inspired, and all the times between. I pray I learn to enjoy the quiet moments, but that my effectiveness for Him is seen in all the moments.

Peace,
~Matthew

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Kings, Crosses, and Crowns


In different ways, both Paul (Ephesians 3) and Peter (1 Peter 4) speak of us as being stewards of God's grace.
As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God's varied grace (1 Peter 4:10 ESV)
Now, if you read that causally, please read that again.

... we are stewards of God's grace? Not just our financing, how we spend our time, or how we serve in general; but we are called to be good stewards of His grace. Money is easy to part with (comparatively speaking), time can be scheduled, but grace comes from within.

If that does not cause a believer to pause and tremble at the responsibility and weight of His precious gift to us I don't know what will.

This is not the Grace of God that is given freely for salvation, only He can do that. Though there is a gift of grace from God that should be seen in us as Christians; something that we carry in order to share. We are forgiven so that we can forgive others.
  • When an enemy someone who is also loved by God fails you, hurts you, denies you, mocks you; do you meet them with pride, or Grace?
  • When your disobedient kids children that God gave you aren't responding the way you would like to your leadership; do you meet them with pride, or Grace?
  • When your spouse that just doesn't understand that you were blessed with and committed to being with until you die isn't meeting your perceived needs; do you meet them with pride, or Grace? 
  • When a decision (albeit biblical one) is being made at church by some that don't understand a prayerful leadership team and is causing you frustration; do you meet that with pride, or Grace?
  • When that annoying person individual at work approaches you with the same question, or continued arrogance, or unkind behavior; do you meet that with pride, or Grace?
  • When your stupid job place of employment that supports your family causes you to work a bit more than you expected; do you meet that with pride, or Grace?
Are we being good stewards of God's grace?

Before you jump to a conclusion that I'm preaching, let me remind you that this site is my journal first, and blog second. With many things in my personal, occupational, and Spiritual life that I'm struggling with, I find pride creeping up far more than grace.

When I look in the mirror I see all too often a crown on my head, not a cross on my shoulder. Pride seems to be winning over grace, and too often I find a face of stress, not a cheerful giver and laborer. Often His Path for us is a simple step away, yet I stand and pout waiting to be carried to my next milestone.

I've been in pits before, and there is always a Hand reaching down to lift me up, but I all too often try to find clever ways of climbing out of the pit myself. Scratching and clawing at walls, building fancy contraptions, possibly using other things or individuals to step on as I climb out, but I never find the top. I never can escape from what seems like a bottomless pit. Yet when I take hold of the Helping Hand that is reaching toward me, I seem to step out with almost no effort. Unfortunately the scrapes and bruises I suffered trying to get myself out have left its impact, but the Helping Hand turns into a Healing Hand to work on that as well.

Yet ... I stubbornly sit far too long in my pit of self. Why does it take me so long to cast off that stupid crown? ... it's not even comfortable ...

His all too often stubborn child,
~Matthew

Monday, April 6, 2015

Confessions of a Task Master


I love checking boxes! I really do!

I'm organized, usually somewhat caught up in my tasks, and am always looking to find the next thing that is going to make me more efficient. My inbox at work is usually fairly empty as most of my items I file into my task manager, assign priorities, due dates, and keep my workload focused (as much as I can). Household tasks, maintenance and projects, homeschooling, daily routines, etc. are all managed in an application I found that works perfectly with my brain!

I'm a task master ... but no, not that guy from Marvel!

Now, before you go rolling your eyes thinking I'm painting some picture of perfect organization I will remind you that I have a family of 6 ... including one very busy 3 year old! I think I need as much attempted organization to just keep the wheels on the bus because in reality, it's never quite like it is on paper. But I try ... and being a rather organized person, I don't mind the adventure ... usually! :)

Organization is probably one of my greatest strengths ... and one of my greatest weaknesses.

It leads me at times down a path of control, frustration, exhaustion, and even sometimes depression. I often carry burdens I have no need to carry, and try to accomplish things that need not be accomplished. I set my goals high, but often at a level that is unachievable.

However, for the first time in a long time I feel free again.

Do you know that scene in Good Will Hunting (spoiler alert!) where his counselor let him know the abuse that he suffered was not his fault? He responded with "Yeah, I know" ... seeing an opportunity his counselor kept pushing ... and repeating ... "It's not your fault." ... until this hardened character got more angry and this probing into his heart until he broke ... broke down in sobbing tears as knowledge made it's way from the mind, to the heart.

I say that to relate to you how I have felt for the past few years. I heard people say, pastors say, books read, Scripture reveal that "God loves me". And my response was understanding, accepting, and confident that "I know".

However knowing God loves you and feeling He does is a completely different experience. It's as if that probing reality hit me at a deeper level ... God loves me.

Love Breaks Legalism

Legalism ... that task managing system that steers you away from Jesus.

... and you know what's interesting? Remember those struggles I mentioned earlier about how me being a task master has impacted me in a negative way? Cleaving to Jesus and His Word has been reshaping my entire system ... not because I'm letting organization consume me less, but because I'm letting Him consume me more.

Free,
-Matthew
But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. - Matthew 6:33
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