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?

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