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
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