Friday, September 22, 2017

The Watchman


A couple weeks back I had the opportunity to join some fellow birders counting migrating hawks. Most of the ones that were flying that day, Broad-winged Hawks, were soaring at such an altitude that they often couldn't be seen with the naked eye. Getting a photo at this altitude was quite the task. Even at 600mm, fully cropped, this is the best shot I could get! These large birds by the hundreds would have missed my sight completely.



Thankfully, I came properly equipped. With my binoculars, I walked away seeing a couple hundred birds in probably just an hour. Quite an amazing sight ... but a sight that I never would have experienced without a few things:
  1. Being Properly Equipped
  2. Knowing Where to Look
  3. Patience
  4. Help from Others
As a sophomore birder, I think these 4 things pretty much sum up how I go out birding - or as some call - bird watching. Interestingly enough, as I was reading through Ezekiel, there was another type of watching that was described. Ezekiel was to be the watchman of Israel:
But if the watchman sees the sword coming and does not blow the trumpet, so that the people are not warned, and the sword comes and takes any one of them, that person is taken away in his iniquity, but his blood I will require at the watchman's hand. (Ezekiel 33:6 ESV)
When I read this passage I could not but help feel convicted by the Holy Spirit to assess my own watching skills. How am I doing watching those close to me, in my own sphere of influence, that call on Christ? How am I doing casting very real warnings to those in (and even out) of my faith?

Now don't get me wrong. I'm not trying to take Ezekiel's very specific prophecy he was given by God, at a specific time, to warn him and his people about a specific judgement, and try to apply it to general evangelism. However, repeatedly in Scripture, we see a responsibility that is placed on us that God takes very seriously. When I read this passage, and learn the character of God deeper each time we talk, I can't help but reflect on and apply this warning to my own leadership (in my family, church, and workplace).

So how can I do this well?

Interestingly enough, I see a similar methodology to my 4 things listed above.

  1. Be Properly Equipped - You don't need to hold an MDiv, or be a published theological author, to have a conversation with someone about your faith. But you do need to know this amazing God you claim to speak of, not in your words, but His.
  2. Know where to look - Are you afraid of looking in the direction He is calling because those conversations are more difficult? Are you even praying about where He wants to send you?
  3. Patience - Holding a sign on a street corner shouting warnings with zero personal relationship may work for some, but not me - Far more courage is needed to reach out and start a relationship with someone far from Christ, pray, and wait patiently for God to open a door. If you faithfully do your part, God will do His; He is in the saving business. In the meantime, just love. This reaching out is not "a show" we put on as Christians ... it's "to show" that we truly love and care deeply about another one of God's children. We all need someone to journey with, and that leads me to number four ...
  4. Help from Others - In a world of superficial and virtual friendships in the hundreds, we crave deep relationships; and as a Christian, deep relationships with a brother or sister in Christ. If you get a call that will bring you to your knees, we need ones that will kneel next to us with arms around our shoulders, to walk along side us, help us in our needs, and point us back to Christ. I have deep friendships, and family that loves me deeply - but nothing compares to a brother or sister in Christ, with the same worldview, that is deeply involved in your life and can help keep your eyes on Christ. Do you have someone like this?

Does this mean that if the Holy Spirit pulls at your heart to move that you reject His call if you don't feel ready based on the items above? Of course not! He speaks, we move - that's obedience - that's how this works. However why not be ready?

Because I love birding as a hobby, when I drive, I make sure to have some things in the truck with me. Hiking boots, a spotting scope, camera, binoculars, a hat ... get the picture? I want to be ready ... I don't want to miss that opportunity for that great shot or rare bird just because I was unequipped.

Likewise, I certainly don't want to miss another shot ... it could make an eternal difference; not just for me being a poor watchman, but for those around me.

Equipping,
~Matthew

Thursday, August 31, 2017

#LeaveItBehind


Quick thought ...

What if we could turn an every day experience into a time of worship? Like the toilet! --- hear me out ... what if we didn't use that time to sit with our phone, catch up on a note, think about work, that next project, or even text your buddy from the throne ... but instead, thought about what else we need to dump and leave behind? What else we need to purge ourselves from? A time of forgiveness, and time of repentance, a time of reflection, a time of not walking away without leaving something behind that we should not be carrying anymore? What if that flush, while just a symbol, was a reminder ... a charge ... and a way to leave different than the way we came in. I need crazy reminders like this in a busy world ... as odd - or as uncomfortable as it may sound to you - I know that for me it will be a way to stop and think ... 

#CrazyThoughts #ItsHowIRoll #GodInEverything #DumpAndFlush#LeaveItBehind

Kill Us -or- Fill Us



Some things will most certainly kill us.

Jumping out of an airplane for instance ... without a parachute; pretty likely! Perhaps stepping out into the street right in front of a beer truck; not gonna end good. I do think that indulging in Coney Dogs with Paczki buns may induce the same fate ... but that's just me, who knows ...

... they do kinda look tasty ... in an odd way.

However I have to admit that at times I treat God's calling as if it would do the same. There are times where I feel following His call will most surely lead to pain, suffering, and loss.

When I pray the prayer

     God, make me more like your Son Jesus

and dare to end it with

               ...whatever it takes.

I feel as though God is going to reach down from His Throne and rip away everything dear to me (maybe even my life) to teach me how to rely on Him more. Why? I don't know - probably the anxiety demon in me - but I tend to jump to conclusions that aren't always logical, nor even reasonable.

Could He? Sure ...

After all, suffering ... sacrifice ... laying down my life ... these are all words very familiar to us Christians.

However I think Oswald Chambers strikes a critical thought here when he said this ...

"Jesus does not ask me to die for Him, but to lay down my life for Him."

Sounds a lot like Romans 12:1 doesn't it?

"I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship." Romans 12:1 (ESV)
Another guy that went by the name John the Baptist said it pretty well as noted in the Gospel of John

"He must increase, but I must decrease." - John 3:30 (ESV)
However may we not be fooled ... this laying down of our life as a living sacrifice is far more difficult than actually dying. After all - we would be dead - hard to complain here on earth about how hard it is being dead!

But are you ... am I ... are we ... ready to give up ... ourself ... to be used by Him?

Can we lay our will down ... for His?

Just know this - I have met many missionaries, and many who sacrifice so much for those with so little, and many who have offered their service to those in need and have put their own self, finances, and comfort aside - and I have yet to sit down with any of them that have not been filled with so much love and blessings in their life.

Some tired, some exhausted, and some wondering how God will provide for them so that they could continue with their next step ... but no regrets ...

God does not wish us dead or in poverty ... but He does want sacrifice ... He simply wants us.

May we trust Him wherever He calls us, and may we pray to be emptied of us, and filled with Him.

Some things will kill us - Some things will fill us - Which one do we choose?


I've had just enough of the spotlight when it burns bright
To see how it gets in the blood
And I've tasted my share of the sweet life and the wild ride
And found a little is not quite enough

I know how I can stray
And how fast my heart could change

Empty me of the selfishness inside
Every vain ambition and the poison of my pride
And any foolish thing my heart holds to
Lord empty me of me so I can be filled with You

I've seen just enough of the quick buys of the best lies
To know how prodigals can be drawn away
I know how I can stray
And how fast my heart could change

Empty me of the selfishness inside
Every vain ambition and the poison of my pride
And any foolish thing my heart holds to
Lord empty me of me so I can be filled with You

'Cause everything is a lesser thing
Compared to You, compared to You
'Cause everything is a lesser thing
Compared to You so why surrender all?

Empty me of the selfishness inside
Every vain ambition and the poison of my pride

Empty me of the selfishness inside
Every vain ambition and the poison of my pride
And any foolish thing my heart holds to
Lord empty me of me so I can be
Lord empty me of me so I can be filled with You
Oh, filled with You, empty me

Sunday, May 21, 2017

God, Help Me!


There are times in our life as Christians where we feel like we are flying out of control, crying to God for help, yet the battle or running seems to be ever continuing ...

As I sat down this afternoon with my family, we recommitted ourselves to spending more time in Scripture together as a group. Thus we continued our reading where we left off: 1 Samuel 23

David was being pursued, hunted, and threatened. Saul was unrelenting in his mission to seek and destroy the one that challenged him, and his throne (even though it was already taken away from him by God). After all, Saul wasn't in rebellion with David, he was in rebellion with God. We don't have to imagine David's emotions during this time, as many of them have been penned down in the Psalms. Where are you God? Help me God? Why are you silent while my enemies pursue me?

Yet he remained trusting and faithful ...

So the hunt continued, and the enemy drew closer ...
And they arose and went to Ziph ahead of Saul. Now David and his men were in the wilderness of Maon, in the Arabah to the south of Jeshimon. And Saul and his men went to seek him. And David was told, so he went down to the rock and lived in the wilderness of Maon. And when Saul heard that, he pursued after David in the wilderness of Maon. Saul went on one side of the mountain, and David and his men on the other side of the mountain. And David was hurrying to get away from Saul. As Saul and his men were closing in on David and his men to capture them,


1 Samuel 23:24-26 ESV
I can only imagine the fear, pain, hurt, frustration - all of what David felt - as he knew the time was drawing near. An encounter with Saul was eminent; God, where are you? God, help me!

And just then ... in perfect timing ...
a messenger came to Saul, saying, “Hurry and come, for the Philistines have made a raid against the land.” So Saul returned from pursuing after David and went against the Philistines. Therefore that place was called the Rock of Escape.


1 Samuel 23:27-28 ESV

Perfect timing you doubt?!

Perhaps you feel better timing would have been for this to be avoided all together; the pain, fear, running, hiding, agony, anxiety ...

Though I wonder; who would David be without all of this?

There was only One that was pursuing David more than Saul
          and that was God 

His protection in our chaos may seem confusing, and perhaps even non-existent. Though things are far more than they seem. We cannot live in rebellion to God and survive, so perhaps your battles are because you are on the wrong side of the fight. Although perhaps your battles are simply results of this broken, prideful, and idolatrous world - and while you are being pursued by darkness, just rest in the fact that when God needs to act, He will. A messenger will come, and lay His hand of protection where it needs ... and only God knows when ... but He does know ...
For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD.
For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts.

Isaiah 55:8-9 (ESV)
His,
~Matthew

Monday, May 15, 2017

The Great Migration


Here in SE Michigan, the peak of the Spring bird migration is now past, as a vast majority of the migrants have already arrived and/or are continuing their journey north. As someone who took up birding rather recently, it's an exciting time of year that is still new to me! While my activity is quite casual, as my time to bird is not always readily available, I still love getting out when I can!

After posting this picture (of a migrating Blackpoll Warbler) a friend commented that it is a bittersweet moment. They are one of the last to arrive, and while exciting to find them, it means that the Spring migration will now soon wane ...

A while later, this comment came back to me, but on a much different level ...

As Christians, what about our migration? Our pilgrimage?

I know I'm taking a bit of liberty here with how a migration works, but how about us? Have we flocked to Christ, with all excitement and beauty, but now it all ... wanes? Have we come ... but then left?

Soon after though, I reflected more about how God's people in the Old Testament made pilgrimages. In fact, multiple trips a year were made to Jerusalem to worship, celebrate, and remember.

More importantly however is to realize that God didn't need us to do it ...

     .... we were the ones that needed it.

Oh how our heart wanders and continues to take flight away from Him. May we not get discouraged as we find that we have migrated away from His presence, but may we simply be reminded and let our heart be pulled back to Him. Much like some migrations can be traced to DNA, we too I feel have been created with a distinct and natural understanding of our true Home ...

“If we find ourselves with a desire that nothing in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that we were made for another world.” - C.S. Lewis
I pray we are all called to continually make a pilgrimage back to His presence, no matter how far or how long we have wandered ...

His,
~Matthew

Three Great Questions

Not my own original idea, but often when I sit down with my wife or children for conversations I ask three simple questions ... 
  1. Ups?
  2. Downs?
  3. Where have you seen God?
In case what I assume to be clear is not, the questions simply ask: Over the past few days or week (depending on when we got together last) what in your life has been an "up" for you? Victories, exciting events, something neat that happened, etc. Additionally, what has recently brought you down? Challenges, hurt, relationship struggles, whatever it may be. Finally, where have you seen God? Not in a general sense, but personally; how has He shown up in your life? Let's share!

I find it a great conversation starter that not only sparks good topics, but has been fabulous for keeping the door open on things in our life that we needlessly burden ourselves with and not allow others a blessing by coming along side us in our struggles. It also gives great opportunity for praise to see where God is moving in each other's lives - and can be highly encouraging.


This weekend while camping the questions came up again with my children around the campfire, including the topic of my blog. They know I write (more often than I do now) and something struck me ...

Often I've struggled to answer question #3, the most important one. As pious as one can be, our faith can be lost in our devout study without time taken not only to apply, but to reflect. For me, my blog has almost always been an application based on a reflection that was given to me - often times very minor but profound. (i.e. seeing a nail on the ground in the parking lot).

I think I've been missing that reflection time ... 

Yes, I can study more, read more, converse more (pray) with God, and even apply far better His commands to my life than I am doing now ... but I've really missed so many opportunities to reflect on every day circumstances - something this blog has helped me do.

When actively writing I could tell you often throughout the week "Where I have seen God" - but lately, while I know He is there, seeing Him as often as I would like has been missed in the business of life.

So - I shall go back to writing more ... it causes me to intentionally reflect, see, and note things in my daily life that point back to Him ... I'm excited to see where He will take me as I strive to be on His Path, Daily ...

His,
~Matthew
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