Monday, October 10, 2016

Look Alive!


One of the things I love about my Fitbit are the multiple silent alarms I can program.

One in particular I have set for 3:16 PM each day - named after the verse full of amazing news that we often recite without passion, excitement, or much reflection because we have heard it so often. Yet still at 3:16 my wrist vibrates to not only remind me of this Good News, but unintentionally Fitbit was programmed to remind me of such in a very beautiful way! "Look Alive!" it reads ... look alive ... :) ... because I am ... too often it happens when I am not looking very alive ... can't think of a better way for it to remind me of such a message ... 

“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

Monday, August 15, 2016

A Challenge for "That" Day


So as I walk through the two letters from Paul to the Church in Thessalonica, I thought I'd pause and share some of my thoughts in writing. I often wander away from any series I tend to start on my blog/journal as I don't like to keep God in a box, but I think sometimes it's also important to finish an idea that I start. So in an attempt to finish said idea, I had a few things that I thought I'd share this week from his letters ...

This is Day 5: Click for day(s): 123, 4

They will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might

2 Thessalonians 1:9 ESV

God's judgment is not something many people like to discuss. I'm not naive in understanding the general reason why people don't like to discuss it as it may feel uncomfortable and judgmental to a humanistic worldview.  Though just because something makes us/some feel uncomfortable we choose not to discuss it?  To some it's the ignorant understanding that because I believe God judges others that it must mean that I dislike, hate, condemn, or judge them myself.

Today however I'm not going to defend that. Today I'm not going to go down a path of what Hell is, looks like, or who I think is going. I just want to talk to my Christian family today and simply ask two questions:
  1. Have [I / you] thought about eternal separation from God?
  2. What [am I / are you] doing about it?
I don't think there is a greater fear of mine than to be in need and know that God is no longer with me. That I am separated from Him - forever. Game over, pieces put back in the box, victory/defeat declared - done.

There are two days in my calendar: This day and that Day.

- Martin Luther
Can you ponder that for a moment?

I light of that - if we believe what we profess to believe - what are you doing about That day, today?

Matt, what do you mean?

Well, we plan diets, exercise routines, vacations, career paths, errands, educational pursuits, purchases, etc. Some of us even plan our day around movies or television shows. The list could go on and on for what we actually take time out of our day for to make tangible plans.

Well ... a much more important Day is coming. Any plans?

I seem to defend this each time and I suppose I can again. I know we can't earn our salvation, and it's free by Grace, but if we really understood what we earned - eternal salvation - wouldn't a natural knee jerk reaction be to show our thanks? When we meet Him face to Face I don't think our reaction will be to respond in pride that we didn't do much and spent more time focusing on our own life because we knew that He saved us by Grace. Just a guess ... I don't think it's going to go like that ... much more likely like Isaiah.

So anyway ... what are you and I doing to prepare? What required work cool thing have you done for God today? What required work blessing have you been to someone in need today? How have you been the required works hands and feet of Christ today?

Anything on your agenda?

It's just a question.

While they are great things, and foundational things, I would challenge you if your answer to me is that you go to church, study, and read your devotional. Great ways to grow and know God for sure, but we are His Hands and Feet, not just a reflective mind.

My loving and supportive wife would likely tell me that I am doing a lot ... I would disagree, but even if I didn't, most of my serving and giving is routine now. I think the more we are churched the more we need to stretch - else we don't grow. I want to do something more - not out of guilt, but out of love and even nervous excitement because I know how exciting it can be to see Him work through me!

Some people wait until that doctors visit to get serious about their health. Some people wait until they are behind on bills before they realize their financial plan isn't working. Some people wait to take their car in until that little noise turns into being broken down on the road. Some people wait ... until it's too late ...

In some of those things we may not have a choice (or know) ... but we do with this.

So my challenge to you (and myself) is to put something on the agenda for today (or tomorrow depending on when you ready this) but it should be tangible ... and let it be a stretch too! Let Him stretch you! It builds our faith ...

Then come back and share how God used you ... I'd love to hear as it would be a blessing and encouragement!

His,
~Matthew

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Measuring Sticks


So as I walk through the two letters from Paul to the Church in Thessalonica, I thought I'd pause and share some of my thoughts in writing. I often wander away from any series I tend to start on my blog/journal as I don't like to keep God in a box, but I think sometimes it's also important to finish an idea that I start. So in an attempt to finish said idea, I had a few things that I thought I'd share this week from his letters ...

This is Day 4: Click for day(s): 123

We ask you, brothers, to respect those who labor among you and are over you in the Lord and admonish you, and to esteem them very highly in love because of their work. Be at peace among yourselves. And we urge you, brothers, admonish the idle, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all. See that no one repays anyone evil for evil, but always seek to do good to one another and to everyone. Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. Do not quench the Spirit. Do not despise prophecies, but test everything; hold fast what is good. Abstain from every form of evil.





1 Thessalonians 5:12-22 ESV
This list of final instructions from Paul is a great measuring stick for us today. I sometimes lay my head down on my pillow and think over my day (a period of time that I used in exchange for this gift of life I've been granted). Some people consider the worth of their time when pondering various activities.


I know how to change the brakes on my car, but with the heat, my schedule, having to run to the store, is it really worth the savings I would gain or should I just take my car in for service somewhere? What is my time worth?

Yet each day when you get up, you make a decision on a much more important reality ... what will you choose to give up in exchange for one more day of your life? How much is one day of living on earth worth to you? If your view of life is temporal, this may make you squeamish to even think about. My anxiety can make it difficult too, but I choose to ask the question nonetheless. It's a great measuring stick.

We are saved by Grace, but that doesn't mean we should not set goals - eternal goals - for our day.

Paul's exhortation leaves us with questions. Today, did I:

  • Admonish the Idle?
  • Encourage the Fainthearted?
  • Help the Weak?
  • Be Patient with All of the Above?
  • Seek to do Good (both with the body of Christ and outside)?
  • Rejoice?
  • Pray?
  • Give Thanks?
  • Quench the Spirit (or did I fan it into Flame)?
  • Hold Fast to Good?
  • Abstain from Evil?
If you are a Christian you have undoubtedly had days where you laid your head to rest, and in peace and joy (not pride) were pleased with how you let God work through you that day. You were pleased with what your life transaction that day returned. Don't you want to feel like that more often? Don't you want to feel like that every day?!

Perhaps this simple list (Hey, I didn't make it up) is here for a reason *gasp* ... maybe it applies to us even today!? *gasp* ... so perhaps you ... and I ... can sit alone with God tomorrow morning (or right now) and simply ask where He wants you to go. Let us stop trembling in fear of where He will take us when we know He is a trustworthy Leader.

One more note. This is not a measuring stick to be held against others or used to compare yourself to them. We all know some amazing Christians that have it all together. However I got a little secret ... They don't - they're messed up too!

So let's just look to God ... stare at Him ... not others ... and see where He calls us.

And then ... move!

Blessings,
~Matt

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Let it Twirl!


So as I walk through the two letters from Paul to the Church in Thessalonica, I thought I'd pause and share some of my thoughts in writing. I often wander away from any series I tend to start on my blog/journal as I don't like to keep God in a box, but I think sometimes it's also important to finish an idea that I start. So in an attempt to finish said idea, I had a few things that I thought I'd share this week from his letters ...

This is Day 3: Click for day(s): 123

Finally, then, brothers, we ask and urge you in the Lord Jesus, that as you received from us how you ought to walk and to please God, just as you are doing, that you do so more and more. For you know what instructions we gave you through the Lord Jesus. For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from sexual immorality; that each one of you know how to control his own body in holiness and honor, not in the passion of lust like the Gentiles who do not know God; that no one transgress and wrong his brother in this matter, because the Lord is an avenger in all these things, as we told you beforehand and solemnly warned you. For God has not called us for impurity, but in holiness. Therefore whoever disregards this, disregards not man but God, who gives his Holy Spirit to you.

Now concerning brotherly love you have no need for anyone to write to you, for you yourselves have been taught by God to love one another, for that indeed is what you are doing to all the brothers throughout Macedonia. But we urge you, brothers, to do this more and more, and to aspire to live quietly, and to mind your own affairs, and to work with your hands, as we instructed you, so that you may walk properly before outsiders and be dependent on no one.






1 Thessalonians 4:1-12 ESV
If someone came up to you and said one of these two things, which would be more encouraging? Engaging? Acceptable? Well received? ... even if your name isn't Matt!

  1. Matt, you need to do more!
  2. Matt, you're doing ____ so well! You are shining in this area! I love it! Let me see more of it!

It's how Paul encourages here. He doesn't focus on what they are not doing well, he focuses on what they are doing well. He plays up on their strengths. and encourages them to grow in that area even more!

There are ways to encourage one another that are pleasant ... and then there are ways to encourage others that will make them glow!

My 5 year old daughter can walk up to me in a new dress and I could make her smile by simply stating that I like her new dress. That would be encouraging. That would be pleasant. However I could also pause, (really pause to take a moment out of my day) ... and then ask her to spin around so I can get a good look at that beautiful dress! When she does so, and the dress twirls around her, I could answer her in excitement and exclaim "That is such a pretty dress, and you make it look even more beautiful! Look how it twirls!" ... and she would go from feeling pleasant to absolutely glowing!

Odd comparison? Perhaps ... but maybe not. I could walk up to another brother in Christ and encourage them with a pat on the back, help them as their accountability partner, or some other typical way. Or ... or I could decide to listen. Really listen, you know? Not like waiting until they are done speaking to say the thing you wanted to say while they were talking. Not that any of us do that of course ... and instead simply point out their strengths, elevate them to highlight how I see God working in them, and encourage them to focus on the great strengths they have and keep pushing forward ... all while showing my honest excitement for them!

If we listen to somebody long enough we will see where God has gifted them and where His Light shines. Point that out, and celebrate it!

But what about accountability? What about pointing out our weak areas where sin resides?

I'm all for accountability and bringing sin to light ... but I'll tell ya what. When I'm on fire for Christ, sin has no hold on me. I could walk through a valley of temptations and not even look to the left or right. So let's encourage and fan into flame the beautiful gifts and strengths we see in our brothers and sisters in Christ around us; focus on that. Let them twirl around showing off His beautiful spiritual gifts He has given them and watch them walk away glowing in the Fire of His Holiness!

I know you have some gifts! Let it Twirl!
~Matt

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Thinking Eternal


So as I walk through the two letters from Paul to the Church in Thessalonica, I thought I'd pause and share some of my thoughts in writing. I often wander away from any series I tend to start on my blog/journal as I don't like to keep God in a box, but I think sometimes it's also important to finish an idea that I start. So in an attempt to finish said idea, I had a few things that I thought I'd share this week from his letters ...

This is Day 2: Click for day(s): 123

But now that Timothy has come to us from you, and has brought us the good news of your faith and love and reported that you always remember us kindly and long to see us, as we long to see you—for this reason, brothers, in all our distress and affliction we have been comforted about you through your faith. For now we live, if you are standing fast in the Lord. For what thanksgiving can we return to God for you, for all the joy that we feel for your sake before our God1 Thessalonians 3:6-9 ESV

Paul, in distress and affliction, was comforted. Yet he was not comforted by worldly relief in gaining freedom, mercy from Rome, or even accolades and friendship. He was comforted in simply knowing others were strong in their faith. Knowing and seeing God in them brought comfort to Him. Knowing they had a relationship with God was immeasurably more important than their relationship with him. He could not care much less about what they thought of him, but if they held their faith in God, this is what brought him deep comfort.

What about us? Do we reflect this attitude? Are we so shaped by Christ that we draw comfort by simply seeing Him working in others around us?

It reminded me of a recent and very simple example.

A few days ago I visited a new (to me), trendy, young and lively coffee house. The friendly barista behind the counter that made my drink wore a beautiful symbol of our faith around his neck that displayed his identity in Christ. Amidst the busy day, and things that perhaps didn't go exactly as planned the hours before, this simply display should bring me comfort. Perhaps leave me with a sigh as I remember where and Who I stand on to refocus my day.

Matt, it's some dude wearing a cross, stop getting too dramatic.

No, it's not just some dude wearing a cross, it's a reminder for when we feel like Elijah in 1 Kings 19, feeling so alone, that there are a host of others that stand firm to Him and follow the promise declared on Calvary.

It was finished ... and yet It also just began.

May we draw comfort, even in our trials, from others around us that cleave to Him as a sign of His promise. Not every day will be a mountaintop experience, and frankly, so few days if any will be. But let us draw our comfort from the right sources and not from things that ... well ... don't last.

Thinking eternal,
~Matt

Monday, August 8, 2016

Confidence not Arrogance


So as I walk through the two letters from Paul to the Church in Thessalonica, I thought I'd pause and share some of my thoughts in writing. I often wander away from any series I tend to start on my blog/journal as I don't like to keep God in a box, but I think sometimes it's also important to finish an idea that I start. So in an attempt to finish said idea, I had a few things that I thought I'd share this week from his letters ...

This is Day 1: Click for day(s): 12, 3
For our appeal does not spring from error or impurity or any attempt to deceive, but just as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel, so we speak, not to please man, but to please God who tests our hearts. For we never came with words of flattery, as you know, nor with a pretext for greed—God is witness. Nor did we seek glory from people, whether from you or from others.

1 Thessalonians 2:3-6a ESV
We see here Paul defending his motives. He's stating that he's not making things up, he's not being impure or attempting to deceive them, not intended to please man but rather God, and certainly not trying to flatter them, be greedy, or even seek glory for himself.

We (as Christians) have always come under attack (and we always will). Despite the changes in culture since the foundation of our country, Christians have seen times of peace and turmoil throughout history alike. This is not new. Today, while the pendulum has begun to swing away from God (at least in this country) it's no wonder we are having to defend ourselves more. However I'm willing to bet that when you or I defend our faith against someone who is attacking it directly or just unaware and attacking us based on views that society has misunderstood ... we begin to get ... offensive.

I believe the root of that feeling of offensiveness is called by another biblical name ... pride.

You see, Paul would not put these words into writing for no reason. Somewhere there was someone likely accusing him of doing the things he countered above. However when I read his words (and by all means read the letter in context yourself) I do not get any feeling of pride at all. He's not defending because he has arrogance ... he's defending because he has confidence.

I'm sorry to burst your bubble but your amazing words and dialog are not going to convince anyone of the Gospel, and certainly your hammer of justice won't do it either. That's God's task ... let us stop trying to play God. Does this mean we don't respond? That apologetics are not necessary? Certainly not! It just means that our response should be in confidence in Him and not arrogant pride in us. His light will shine through if we let it, but anger, bitterness, and malice will eclipse all that light He wants to shine through.

Stop.

Rest ... rest in Him.

... and let us defend in confidence when needed. If you're blood pressure is rising, I bet your pride is too ...

~Matthew

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Walking in the Light



“To walk in the light means that everything that is of the darkness actually drives me closer to the center of the light.” – Oswald Chambers

Imagine that you take a nightly walk, holding your lantern, to a particular destination. Around you is darkness, but because you hold your light, your path is illuminated. In fact, you may occasionally take different routes, turns, and other adjustments to your course. This is no problem for you, because you are holding the light. Perhaps years go by, and you do this journey yourself, never thinking much as you get more comfortable with each journey made.

Then one day … you lose your light.

Lost, you see another distant light, and then a hand reach out into the darkness guiding you back. You don’t know why, but you feel you should follow … so you do. This individual leads you to another that has a light, one that seems brighter in ways you can’t explain. So the journey continues, and while unsure, you decide to follow this new leader.

As you begin you immediately begin to see the struggle as he is taking completely different turns and routes than you ever have. In fact, he is taking what you think to be a much harder way, even the wrong way at times. Yet he now holds the light to illuminate your path. You may think you know where to go on your own, but the darkness prevents you from leaving. Sometimes you try to push the limits, hoping that your distance may even force your leader to follow you, but alas it does not.

The darkness drives you back to the light.

You don’t walk in perfect step with your partner, and even if you try to get as close as possible, you still never have the feeling of control … because … you’re no longer the light bearer. He is.

Sometimes you get so lost in the darkness as the frustration and temptation to go your own way overcomes you, but even when you find yourself completely lost in your surroundings, you seem to never have lost sight of that faint glowing Light in the distance. At times, it’s so far away that your journey back is met with falls, trips, scrapes, and bruises …

It’s bewildering why at times you still try to go your own way when you know what darkness surrounds you; yet the pull is always there.

This journey with your new Leader has taken you through some incredibly tough climbs, challenges, and even some long swims through waters you felt would consume you. Yet this path He leads you on has brought you to see more beautiful places than you ever thought imaginable. Beautiful things you never even knew existed. At times He pauses … allowing you see this beauty around you … and then, there are other times He pauses. The first time you didn’t know why until you saw those eyes in the distant dark staring back at you … lost … you waited, and just stared back until you realized after looking back at your Leader that it’s you He was waiting on. As you muster the courage, you venture out into the edge of the light, grab a hand, and lead them back to Him.

This continues! Companionship grows, help and encouragement surround you now, and you get to share this journey with others. You now help each other cross those difficult passes, weep with and help heal the wounds of those that the darkness had injured. You get to laugh and share the beauty now, and celebrate as others continue to join in this journey. You try to help each other and guide others back to His Light as they start to wander. After all, you have seen what is out there.

Sometimes though … those eyes that we see … they don’t come. Some don’t want to as they still carry a finite light of their own. Others just sit in the darkness waiting for something … someone. You try to encourage, and talk about your Leader, and even the journey that you have seen (difficult and beautiful) … some even laugh and think these stories of things you have seen are too much to believe. Then with prayer, and sometimes tears, you have to leave … but at least you leave having the hope that you now know; that His light is never too far away to see if they ever wish to come back.

Each time you have to leave them, it is never thinking you are better or smarter for walking in His Light … because even still … you heart is prone to wander back into the darkness … and you pray to remain strong yourself. After all, it’s not a walk of perfection – it’s a walk of submission to the Light, the Leader … Jesus.


Thank you Oswald that your words continue to speak. This is what I thought of when I read those words you penned. I look forward to meeting you at the end of my journey.

Thursday, June 30, 2016

From Blah to Blessings



So today has been kind of a blah day ... not bad, just blah ...

Work was blah, lunch was blah, had a headache for a bit so that was blah, came home early to help watch my daughter who was feeling blah, and watched my wife and oldest daughter head to Secretary of State and all the frustration that came with that which was blah. My dinner was blah and since I was hanging out with my little one I really didn't get to get outside and tackle what I wanted to do (nor get a walk/run/bike in) which also made me feel blah.

*Looks at FitBit* ... 5400 steps ... blah ...

Now you're probably feeling blah after reading that!

Usually when I feel blah, it sort of leads to a downward spiral of blah ... even in my relationship with God. I sort of hunker in a metaphorical corner, savoring all my introvert-ness and isolation and am surprised that my icky quiet corner of space didn't make me feel better. It's supposed to recharge me! Why isn't it working like that?

But today?

Today ... I decided to grab my laptop ... my Bible ... and see what He says about my blah (maybe it's Greek for something) day ... this isn't post-de-blah-ness, this is right in the middle of it all so let's see what we can learn together. Real time bloggin y'all ...

BTW, did you know boring isn't in the Bible?

Anyway ... let's try something else. I feel like being washed over in a Psalm ... they (usually David) tend to express emotions pretty openly like I do. Many shout praises, but many also are pouring out depression, anger, fear ... all with an underlining knowledge that He is in control.

Hmm ... funny I should mention that. That's really where all this blah is from isn't it? Not being in control? Work, lunch, sickness, errands, chores, etc. Things just didn't go the way I had planned.

Planned ... a plan ...

Well this isn't a Psalm ... but here ... there's a lot of backdrop to this story, but nonetheless:

“And you, Solomon my son, know the God of your father and serve him with a whole heart and with a willing mind, for the LORD searches all hearts and understands every plan and thought. If you seek him, he will be found by you, but if you forsake him, he will cast you off forever.
1 Chronicles 28:9 ESV

Know God
Serve God
Seek God
[and you will] Find God

Well, I would say I know Him ... I may not understand His will all the time, but I do know Him.

... and He knows me ... *big smile* ... but I digress ...

Serve Him? Well, at this particular moment when I read that word (serve) I immediately thought of the alternate, to serve sin; serve my flesh. Sitting here with you (well, you eventually) right now reminds me of one of the few good choices I made today. I chose God over my sulking in my metaphorical corner, or worse. I served Him and not my flesh ... and sin ... and by doing that very thing, I naturally begin the journey of seeking Him.

*another smile* ... OK, we do have to pause now ... and maybe when these words reach you, perhaps you can do the same ... I need to sit with Him for a bit in prayer. BRB ... AFK ... whatever ... I'll be back in a bit (though for you, just the next line!)

...

God is just ... refreshing. A well of living water indeed!

I was reminded what author Shelley Hitz said in one of her books about faith. She has a beautiful view of Pikes Peak that she sees most every morning. Each time she looks out at that beautiful work of art and takes it in ... except for one morning in particular. Likely not the first time, but sometimes it takes things a while before it hits you. Through the overcast, clouds, and poor visibility ... out her window ... Pikes Peak ... was gone. Then she realized, and simply but profoundly stated:
Just because I couldn't see Pikes Peak that morning, didn't mean it was no longer there.

Shelley Hits
How often do we feel distant from God in our blah times? Are we staring at the clouds, or seeing beyond them with eyes of faith? Are we letting life and daily routine so eclipse our view of God that we live like He's not right there beside us? God doesn't change ... but our view of Him certainly does. Perhaps not in word, but certainly in action.

I was also reminded of community, and how we really need others who call on His name around us. For me, in this quiet time, it is the communion of saints that have gone before us, or even books from others like Shelley that remind us we are on a journey together. With all the bad press that social media sometimes gets, it can still be a great tool to reach out, and draw in, when we seek the right sources. We need community, not isolation.

I was also reminded of how many blessings my day was full of, and how many everyday things I perhaps (ok, very much so) take for granted. From my job, my family, my security, and even God.

Know Him ... Serve Him ... Seek Him ...

... and you will find Him indeed!

Blessings friends

His,
~Matthew

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

... and is to come.

When we read a passage like this ... 

Be patient, therefore, brothers, until the coming of the Lord. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, being patient about it, until it receives the early and the late rains. You also, be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand.



James 5:7-8 ESV

What comes to mind for you? For me, it's the simple question I ask myself; do I live like I really believe the Lord is returning? Is my theology matching my life, or do I seem to have a detachment from the reality that Scripture speaks?

But I am patient for His return say some!

Let's not mistake the farmers' patience with inactivity. The farmer worked ... and worked hard ... so that his crop would be fruitful. He had patience and trust in the Lord of the harvest. He let God work on the result, but certainly he put his hands to work.

I'm not a farmer say some!

Neither am I! So I will ask another question: Do we take more care preparing our home for a dinner party than we do preparing ourselves for the return of our Lord?



If I'm the only one that cringes slightly at that question, than perhaps this world is more prepared than I would have thought, but I'm guessing not. I'm guessing we get far more worked up about the casserole, the dirty floor, and place settings than prepare our hearts for His return.

If you haven't yet, I strongly suggest you read The Practice of the Presence of God by Brother Lawrence (published in 1691). The mundane and worldly responsibilities are not separate for God, in fact God is in them all just as beautifully ... and we can be in presence with Him through them all. Brother Lawrence does a wonderful job of illustrating that here in this book.

So whatever your plans are for today ... I suggest we all take a moment to ponder the Lord's return. Perhaps not the children's Sunday School version, but the Isaiah version ... 

And the foundations of the thresholds shook at the voice of him who called, and the house was filled with smoke. And I said: “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts!”

Isaiah 6:4-5 ESV

He was ... is ... and is to come ... 

His,
~Matthew


Monday, June 27, 2016

The Compass of Peace


Peace, or lack thereof, is often a compass I use to check whether I am in step with God or not. I suppose it is not surprising then that I find this wisdom in Scripture as well ...


Who is wise and understanding among you? By his good conduct let him show his works in the meekness of wisdom. But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth. This is not the wisdom that comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice. But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.



James 3:13-18 ESV

It may be a decision, a trial, a conversation waiting to be had, an e-mail awaiting send, a phone call that needs to be made ... but if it doesn't leave you with peace, stop! Peace is not happiness ... joy ... celebration. Peace, namely His peace, is much deeper. It's contentment in trials, struggles, and challenges.

I've had both conversations in the flesh, and in His Spirit, and the differentiating factor has always been peace. When I do not have it, I often regret my words and actions - when I do have it, I can't recall regret, even if the conversation or decision was a difficult one to make or stand on.

May peace be your guide ... and if you don't have it? Seek it ... pursue it ... our faith is every active.


Keep your tongue from evil and your lips from speaking deceit.Turn away from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it.
Psalm 34:13-14 ESV


His,
~Matthew

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Know Him, and Let Your Prayers Take Flight

If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.
James 1:5-8 ESV

What is your reaction when you read that passage? Certainly there is a bigger context outside this passage, and lots of wonderful theological stuff I can throw at this, but what is your reaction?

You know what, first let's narrow this down a bit ... how about just verse seven ...

For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord

If you had to put one word that comes to mind what would it be?

If I'm honest, and life is too short not to be, I think sometimes part of me would use this word:

Discouraging.

If that's your word - or something similar - I would like an opportunity to change mine and your perspective. First though, why? Why discouraging?

Perhaps because I read this and reflect on my own prayer life. I'm not sure I always (often?) pray with real expectation. I do indeed feel like a wave of the sea at times. Sometimes I may say during my conversation with the Lord "... but whatever Your will is Father ... " ... it sounds good ... and sometimes I truly mean this ... but sometimes I think it is really just a cover phrase for being unsure and doubtful.

However first of all, being discouraged, is not from Him. Nor does this passage mean that God will never give us anything if we doubt ... and frankly, I believe sometimes God uses His wonderful element of surprise (let's call it Grace in this case) to counter our doubt in hopes that we see how amazingly trustworthy He truly is. After all ... sometimes our darkest hours when He comes to comfort us does not always match with our most confident hours.

Challenge me if you wish, but I think this passage is to remind us of our relationship with Him, not just confidence when we pray.

The more strong our faith, the more strong our confidence and expectations will be in prayer. How do we increase our faith? By deepening our relationship with the Lord.

Don't read this passage and let it cause you to do mental acrobatics during prayer to force yourself to be confident. It doesn't work that way, I know, I tried! Just draw closer Him ... know Him ... love on Him ... learn to trust Him ... submit to Him ... let that control freak in you turn it over to Him ... and in turn that relationship will grow your faith, grow your confidence, increase your expectations, and will lead to a bountiful prayer life.

How do I know? Because I've been there ... the more I draw myself away from Him and focus on the business of life, the less confident my prayer life becomes. Why? Simply because I'm talking to a God I know I am distant from ... why would I feel confident in someone helping me that I'm essentially pushing away due to a priority problem? The days, weeks, months, and on that I'm closer to Him ... spend time with Him ... my prayers feel like they are scrolls with wings that are instantly lifted to His throne and read before a multitude with indescribable power.



His,
~Matthew

Monday, June 6, 2016

Finish The Race

Looking back, I see how my fears have changed over time. Things I used to fear (public speaking and flying for example) have been replaced with others. As a parent, husband, and provider for my family, some of my fears I now have are more 'what if' based around things I can't control with respect to them and what the future holds. Don't get me wrong, many of my fears are still quite selfish when I think about it, but regardless, they continue to change as my journey on this spinning rock ages on.

There is one fear however that is perhaps ... helpful? It keeps me focused.

I fear complacency, laziness, and apathy. I fear watching a burning flame for Christ dwindle into a spark, buried by the everyday routine of life. I fear hiding behind the doctrine of Grace, and forgetting the doctrine of suffering ... serving ... and sacrifice.



As I reached to grab my cross this morning, it really just hit me yet again. I sat down on the bed and just stared at this Image ... this Image with a Story. It's not jewelry, it's not advertisement, and it's even more than a reminder. 

It's a charge ... a calling ... a purpose.

I want to finish well.

I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.
2 Timothy 4:7 ESV

As I clutched the cross, threw it around my neck, I was also reminded of another important goal; starting well. A need to reflect on my daily reliance upon Him each and every morning.

In Christ,
~Matt

Friday, May 27, 2016

Thought Management


While we can certainly pray for God to give us the strength to not lead us into temptation, worry, fear, or frustration; thoughts come. Some good, some bad, and some downright confusing ... and just know that espresso right before bed can lead to some pretty interesting thoughts!

One time I saw this creature flying toward me, then I realized it was a turkey as it got closer (I was at my parents house for some reason too) ... and suddenly it changed into a giant turkey made from Legos as it passed over my head!! ... very odd. What next you ask!? I woke up ... but anyway ... I digress ...

My point is that thoughts come.

2 Corinthians tells us to take these thoughts captive ... in obedience to Christ

We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ

2 Corinthians 10:5 ESV
Paul's quote was more pertaining to defending the ministry, but the point is that thoughts can certainly be used as a weapon for or against God's work if we are not careful to manage.

Driving to work this morning it seemed that we have a three ways to deal with these thoughts ... I'm sure you may have varying perspectives, but these are mine, so deal with it! :)

We can reject it, receive it, or redirect it ... let me explain.

Rejection:  Some thoughts are just so unwholesome, sinful, or full of anger, discontent, comparison, and judgment that we need to immediately reject these and not let them go any further. Often they come packaged in what seems to be a message from God that we should share with others. We need to be especially careful of these thoughts. He is indeed alive and well in this world, working in and through us daily, and occasionally the Spirit will move and guide us as He sees fit; but be careful. We indeed are God's hands and feet on this earth, but we are not His rod and staff. To quote Matt Chander, "You make a crummy god."

Personal Application: I've found that if I would not like this thought to come to light, or this thought is not leaving me at peace, I need to reject it. (To be clear, peace is not happiness and joy.) Something that should remain hidden is rarely if ever from God, and additionally a thought about us, another individual, or situation, that is getting us more worked up and stressed than bringing us peace is also unlikely from Him. God is a God of peace, not bitterness, malice, and impurity. Yes He is a judge too ... but we are not.

Receive: Some thoughts are simply so filled with peace, Truth, and Life that build us and others up. Not surprisingly these are the thoughts that are least confusing and often from God. God is not a God of confusion. Easy then right? Not quite ...

Personal Application: So while I've found these thoughts are easy to discern, are biblically sound, and speak life, receiving them is not as easy. Contrary to the worlds' mantra of "Just Follow Your Heart" , this is often far from it, my heart is just not that good ... my flesh would not think of or want to do many of these things on my own. They often inconvenience, disturb, and push me out of my comfort zone. These thoughts may indeed be easy to discern that they are from God, but they are also the easiest to reject. Our flesh pulls us to be a god, not submit to One. Thus, we sadly often receive the thoughts we should reject, and reject the thoughts we should receive. It's very easy to lash out and give in to temptation - and much more difficult to lay our life aside for the sake of someone else.

Redirection: I got this idea from an artist featured on the Truth Project. The idea is that as children of God we should seek the good in things that perhaps have been twisted. It's the 
untwisting of something false and revealing God's Good Truth. This can be helpful and life changing; but is often difficult, and dangerous. At times I've attempted to untwist something that perhaps should simply have been rejected.

Personal Application: While the idea of being a warrior for Christ and having Him use us to untwist and conquer evil seems ... exhilarating ... I would never do this in the dark (alone). If some idea came to me that seems like an opportunity to redirect, I have learned that counsel ... Godly counsel ... Christ-loving counsel ... is what I need. Thankfully I have a spouse that is chasing after His heart that I can bounce ideas off of ... and some others I trust ... but it's not a matter or thought to take lightly.

So ... I'm not sure if this has generated any new thoughts of your own, or perhaps you have been trying to discern a message yourself, but either way, I know one thing. Seek Him ... truly seek Him ... and He will guide you.

Blessings,
~Matthew

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

How Facebook is Breaking Me



Over the past year or so I have taken breaks from social media, and Facebook in particular, on a fairly regular basis. It has ranged from a day to a couple weeks - though the frequency has been increasing as of late, and I frankly am not sure how much longer I will remain tied to the 1 billion plus people actively using Facebook daily.

That's a staggering number isn't it?

So then why leave? Despite the noise that Facebook sometimes creates (that we all see I'm sure) it's such a great tool for being connecting to so many people, sharing life, and even in my case, the Light to the world that is my Christian faith. What a huge mission field right? Additionally, there are people that I would likely never communicate with again if I left this giant tool of connectivity. So why even leave?

There are many reasons - but in a nutshell, I read less, write less, sleep less, and my creativity is stunted and replaced with something much more lazy and easy like thumbing through my phone or device.

It's destroying me and who I used to be; it's not making me nor my quality of life any better. In addition, it's a tool that puts our highlight reel of life out there for others to read, and allows the very natural human desire to compare harm and stunt myself and others from embracing our own journey and contentment in Him.

Are there many individuals that use it that aren't affected by some of the things I mention? Of course! However, it is my belief that many who say so are in denial or are ignorant to the real impact it's making in their life.

When I share these thoughts the responses I usually get are:

  1. Defensive: "I don't use it that much and it's not a problem for me."
  2. Offensive: "Well, then just stop using it so much - don't blame social media!"

I'm not blaming social media, it's a tool that is designed almost perfectly for what it is intended to do; I'm blaming myself.

Plus, as a Christian, these words always come to mind ...

One of the great uses of Twitter and Facebook will be to prove at the Last Day that prayerlessness was not from lack of time.
John Piper

I could also replace prayerlessness with serving. Facebook is designed about being self-centric and it's doing a fantastic job at that.

So what do I do? In a way this is rather silly is it not? It's Facebook - just leave right? It's no big deal. Perhaps some may even say this post is narcissistic in nature ... but that is far from my intent. As always, perhaps my struggle and transparency may help someone else who happens to stumble upon this page that is struggling with the same.

I pray that I can wait 14 days, and that the pull and addiction to be connected to others (in a mostly superficial way) is surpassed by the pull to be connected to Him and others in a more personal way. I would love to do both, but both my personality and recent history have shown that at least for now, I don't know how to balance that. So I choose Him.

In case you feel the same, here's the link.


His,
Matthew

Monday, May 9, 2016

An Open Letter to Ford Motor Company

Taking a brief detour from my usual topics, I thought I would use this medium to share an open letter from my mother to Ford Motor Company.


I had never owned a brand new car.
It was December 2011 and I was going to be 66 on New Year’s Eve.
I went into Roy O’Brien Ford Dealership, sat down with a salesperson
and literally described the car of my dreams.
I wanted a Taurus – a red Taurus.
I wanted a Taurus because I read the reviews, I talked to informed people,
and I believed it to be the safest car on the road.
Weeks later I drove away with a 2012 Ford Taurus Limited -
Red Candy Metallic w/white leather interior, sun roof, heated/cooled seats,
rear sun shade – and SYNC.
We had her undercarriage rustproofed, and we had her pinstriped by the dealership.
Jim Galli, who did the pinstriping, was a true artist
and has since died from cancer.
We “secretly” named our Taurus Rory.
Rory is an animated red racing car
that our three-year-old grandson loved to watch on Saturday mornings.
I am telling you all of this because I want you to visualize this car,
not only as a classic example of what the Taurus could be,
but as part of a family’s life, providing safety, comfort, and pride.
She never went without a regular tune up or a full tank of gas.
And she never went anywhere without a car wash.

On January 30, 2016 my husband and I were attending a birthday party
at Mr. Paul’s Chop House in Roseville.
We left the party somewhere around 11:30 pm.
Witnesses say we were hit by a police car
that was racing down Grosebeck without lights or a siren.
Apparently the officer was on a call.
We were hit broadside, between the driver’s door and the passenger door.
We were spun around and ended up in the left lane of oncoming traffic.
I understand that the sound of the crash was bone chilling.
However, inside the car we were wrapped in a cushion of white
that covered us and blocked the view from our side windows.
We called out to each other, but someone else was shouting as well.
“You have been hit!  Do you want me to call 911”?
Over and over again the recording kept repeating itself.
We were dazed, and it took us several seconds to realize
that the voice we were hearing was the SYNC.
My husband turned off the ignition and the recording stopped.
We sat there, in this surreal situation,
and realized that we were both unharmed.
It was a miracle.
By the Grace of God and the engineering genius
of side air bags in our Taurus – we were both unharmed.
Even more surreal, I was not afraid.
I had no idea what was going on around me.
I heard the sirens and saw flashing lights through the windshield,
yet, inside the car we were somehow still being protected.

I stood on the curb in front of the restaurant
and watched them tow Rory away.
I was remembering how insistent I had been on owning this Taurus.
Even in the dark, her red candy color shone like a shiny red apple!
She was going back to Roy O’Brien where she belonged.
It is only right that they make the decision.
It is hard for me to think she can’t be saved – after saving us.


I wish my grandson was still three years old.
Such a magical age where nothing is impossible.
I would walk him into that bump shop on those short little legs.
I’d let go of his hand so he could walk right up
to his beautiful race car, look right into those headlights and say,
“You have to get better Rory!”
(and those mechanics would make her better) J


I would like to thank Ford Motor Company for designing vehicles to save lives.  Without the side air bags on our Taurus my husband would not be here today, and I would probably still be in the hospital.  We have always been a Ford family.  Our children and grandchildren own Ford cars.  You are not just a company - you are a family as well.  God bless the good work you do, and God bless your family.


Sincerely,


Karen Gasperoni
Harper Woods, Michigan



Friday, January 1, 2016

Saucer Sleds and Jesus



As I was watching my wife come down the sledding hill on a speeding saucer sled with my 3 year old daughter at the time, it reminded me of how we protect our children! I watched (through the eyepiece of my camera while secretly chuckling) as they slowly disappeared behind the cloud of snow being thrown up by her boots dragging on the ground! While all were fine, minus a bit of whitewashed faces, it reminded me of this passage I read this morning.
Keep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching. Persist in this, for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers. (1 Timothy 4:16 ESV)
What we speak has the power to influence others.

While above I speak of saving through physical protection, it reminded me of how we can save through other forms of protection. How our actions are not only meant to protect ourselves, but those around us.

As Christians, are we keeping a close watch on ourselves and our teachings? Do we realize by the life we lead, the words we speak, and the ideas we teach - we have been given the responsibility to bring others to the knowledge of Christ?

May we, with a good conscience, begin the new year well.

Blessings friends ...

His,
~Matthew

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