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
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