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:

      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?


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


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.


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.


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.


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 ...


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,

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 ...

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