Sunday, July 2, 2017

Working through Matthew

I am reading through Matthew again...yes, I am rather fond of this book as it bears my name.  Surprisingly, this time I am finding all kinds of truths I had never noticed before.  I suppose with any book you read again, you're likely to find things you missed before.  I read Harry Potter about 4-5 times through and enjoyed it quite a lot each time, but I really can't say I learned or saw things I had missed before.  Matthew is different.

This time through I am noticing all of the non-spiritual things.  Obviously, I read and notice when Jesus performs miracles such as making the lame man walk, but I am more interested in the "normal life" perspective this go around.  For example, as soon as Jesus hears about the death of John the Baptist (Jesus' cousin), "He left in a boat to a remote area to be alone."  In all of my life, I've not paid any attention to that and certainly never heard a sermon on that verse.  I'm pretty sure that would be a terribly boring sermon too...probably best that never transpired.

But the reason this line caught my attention now is that it shows how Matt-like, Jesus was at moments.  We see a man here who has healed the sick, made the lame walk, and raised the dead...yet, he finds a need to go and be alone when his friend dies?  Does He intend to mourn or pray or cry or scream?  We have no idea.  But, it stands to reason that some emotion caused Him to stop what He was doing at the time and go by Himself.  In these moments, He wasn't doing anything miraculous, which teaches me He was more like me than I had previously believed.  And if He is like me in those moments, perhaps I can be like Him in the other moments.  

Perhaps when He says, "go and sin no more."  He really meant, "Matt go and sin no more...and yes you can really do that."  The more I understand Jesus as a real life person, the more I can believe that I can actually live a life like His.  Will I feed 5,000 people with a few loaves and fish?  Probably not.  But, I may feed 5,000 one day by living on less and giving more.  Will I raise someone from the dead?  Not likely (lol...I can still hold out hope right?).  But I may be able to breathe life into someone who needs just enough encouragement to take another breath and choose not to end theirs.  Will I choose to sacrifice my life for the sake of others, to give when I would rather take, to love when I'd rather burn with bitterness?  God, I hope so.  And if a perfect man who walked this earth believes I can do it, who am I to doubt?

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Compound Decisions

Compound interest.  Einstein said it is the most powerful force in the universe.  This coming from a key architect of the atomic bomb carries a bit of significance.  If you've ever looked at the math of it, you can see what he meant.  But compound interest doesn't just involve math.  The decision to save, invest, and not spend on a consist, even relentless quest is what fuels compound interest's power.  And so, compounded decisions rather than interest provides the decision after another to use money wisely.  Do that over a year, a decade, and a lifetime and you will build a tremendous and unstoppable force.

This truth doesn't just apply to money, but all of life!

People don't just one day make one good decision that gives them a great marriage, a great business, great relationships, great success, or a great relationship with Jesus.  It is one decision after another after another.  To put it another way, Michael Jordan didn't become one of the best (if not THE best) basketball player of all time the day he first broke a record.  He compounded every shot he ever took to slowwwwwwllllllyyyy become the best basketball player that ever lived.  It is very much like moving a mountain, one pebble at a time.

And that's why most of us give up way too soon.  It is humbling (sometimes even humiliating) to see such little progress each moment of every day in pursuit of moving the mountain.  But this is how compounded decisions are created.  This is how we create momentum in all areas of life.  We choose each day with every decision to either build or destroy.  

People don't start out marriages knowing and wanting to cheat on their spouse.  It is a series of bad decisions that bring them to that point later on, by entertaining thoughts, desires, and emotions that compound and lead to the next bad decision.  This creates momentum towards an ultimately even worse decision that topples their marriage.  

But imagine if we intentional chose to build and strengthen and encourage and grow towards a positive vision and goal with every single decision...every thought, every moment?  If we really understood-as Einstein did-that each decision compounded on each other to help us reach a future goal, would we choose to take more seriously each moment?  We could build an amazing future.

Monday, June 26, 2017

Life to the FULL

I feel like I spend most of my life turning down the noise, lessening the clutter, retraining my brain, unlearning lies, and just generally get rid of everything that keeps me (and us) from fulfilling lives.  The vast majority of what we hear and see is based in lies or distracts us from the truth.  Give me real truth front and center, overflowing the brim and I will drink that down at once!

Unfortunately, I feel like I spend so much of my time throwing out the bad and very little time pouring in the good.  

Apparently I am not the only one stuck on this course, longing for a different path.  But to take such a path requires a life that looks very different from those lives around me.  This path is an ancient path which few have tread.  It's not worn and smooth; it is full of stone and rough edges.  But the sweat and the dirt of this path takes you to a life worth living.  

Where do we find such a path?  It is the path of Jesus.  Not that Sunday school Jesus or the Jesus that makes the TV evangelist rich or the Jesus who lives only in a manger or who scolds you for not following the rules.  Not the Jesus who promises a happy and painless life, nor the one who is a Republican (or some other political pawn).  Not the Jesus who hates gays or smokers or kids who get pregnant before marriage.  Not the Jesus who inspires the KKK or hatred or bombing abortion clinics.  Jesus has nothing to do with any of those.  Yet, Christianity or Christians or Church or some other Jesus related term has become attached to all of these things throughout time and that couldn't be further from the Jesus I know and I see in Scripture.  And so, it is incredibly important to stop and unlearn the lies incorrectly attached to Jesus.    

Jesus lived a life of love, compassion, boldness, strength, courage, and selflessness.  But too many people have used the name of Jesus to make money, build empires, terrorize others, etc.  Thus, I spend a lot of time unlearning things that are not true so I can actually follow the real Jesus.  But, if successful, a life modeled on Jesus' will provide exactly as He promised: life to the full and rest for the soul.  That is a life worth living.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Poverty: the real picture of a huge minority

I have written about poverty before, but it has been a while, and things have changed.  My perspective on what poverty is has widened.  Now, it is not just about being poor in the wallet, but poor in every other area too.  It seems that those impoverished in other nations are sometimes richer in life.

I met with a woman yesterday in a rough area of Baton Rouge.  While driving to her home, I noticed all of the abandoned, dilapidated, and destroyed homes along the way.  There was a sadness to the place as if hope was on life support.  

I parked on the side of the road and walked up through an overgrown yard to a rickety door locked up tight.  After ringing the door bell, I hear a shout "who be there?!"  I replied and she opened the door.  She was a very nice lady, but not in the best health.  She was working 40-55 hours per week and trying to get as much overtime as possible.  She was concerned though because at any time they can lay her off, cut back her hours, and she'd be in bad financial shape.  

Like most people in that area, she has a paid for house, but it's not worth much.  She has very little debt, but no money in the bank either.  She is getting on in years and she has no hope of retiring with anything other than social security which would provide about 1/3 of her current income.  What is likely to happen, is that in another 10 years, her health will begin to falter, forcing her to cut back hours, barely have enough income to make ends meet, and squeak out the rest of her life on whatever government programs can help her get through to the end.

During our conversation, her son who is 28 bursts into the home with his 1 year old son.  He's not married, acts like he's drunk, and is smoking inside her house right next to his son.  He's employed, but only part time, so she helps take care of the 1 year old from time to time as she can.

I leave her house, saddened by her plight and unable to do anything substantial that will change her life.  While leaving I notice the sort of businesses as I leave.  There is, in my opinion, no honestly good business in sight.  There are a few alcohol stores (which also carry a few grocery items), check advance and payday loan places, hair salon, a fast food chain, and a strip joint.  Seriously.  No grocery stores, banks, small businesses, etc.  The one school I came across looked fairly new, but structured similarly to a prison.

The amazing fact is this: according to the Congressional Budget Office, about 40% of our country lives in a place like this (based on the lowest 40% of income earners).  I'm not a brain surgeon or a rocket scientist, but I can tell you that neither republicans nor democrats have a solution for this.  The only thing that will work is the favor of God and millions of well-paid, full-time jobs.  We as a nation, are choosing to pursue neither of these priorities.

I also know that that portion of our population has increased in the last 30 years and is continuing to do so.  It is simply a matter of time before we can no longer sustain this sort of poverty.  Clearly, I have no idea when we'll reach that point, but I can't imagine that day is too far away.

Lord, please come soon.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Godliness with Contentment

1 Timothy 6:6: "Godliness with contentment is great gain."

Sermon over.  Now application...ouch.

Verses like these convince me that I can spend an entire lifetime walking through the Word, and never ever be able to fully put It into practice.  Godliness is one thing, contentment another.  Let me chew on the second piece today though.  Because isn't the grass always greener on the other side of the fence?  Don't we always want to be number one?  Don't we always want to win?  Don't we always want to get the highest scores, the best stuff, and work the hardest at work to be awarded or appreciated the most?  Don't we want to be the person at church who the pastor leans on and goes to whenever he needs something?  Don't we want to be the better spouse, the better child, the smartest guy in the room?

But The Lord says that contentment is key...that we should toss all those other yearnings and desires in the trash can because they do not satisfy.

Should we be excellent at what we do? Yes.  But that should not be our end.  We shouldn't do anything out of selfish ambition, but instead be truly humble (summary of Philippians 2:3).  But aren't we taught and trained to set a goal which usually has some great value to us (selfish goal) and then put everything we have behind it so that we can obtain it?  This happens all the time in sales and is pretty much the basis for most advertising...showing things we "have to have" to get us to buy.  But isn't that the exact opposite of the sort of life God calls us to?

Be content.  Stop chasing after anything but God.

What if nearly everything we think, we feel, we do, and we say is counter to the yearning of the Lord?  We need a heart transplant.  We need a brain transplant.  We need the Lord to transform our lives.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Coming back to start again

It is s good thing that Godis faithful, and that He is faithful no matter what Matt does.

I've spent much of the last six months studying through scripture as I have worked through a great resource called "Learn the bible in 24 hours."  As I have read through and learned, I see the same story repeated all through scripture:  Israel becomes close to the Lord and then wanders away and God continues to pursue her always.  He has made a commitment to her forever, that no matter what she does, she will be His people.

I see that same commitment by God to me as I have chosen to walk with Him through the years.  I, just like Israel, continue to go through cycles of pursuing Him and His path and then changing course slowly and drifting towards Matt's path, finding myself lost, then returning to Him again.

For years now, a verse that has become a great anchor to me in these times of getting lost.  Jeremiah 6:16.  It is a promise and a curse.  And both are blessings from the Lord.  This is exactly his love for his people.  "Stand at the crossroads and look.  Ask for the the ancient path, the godly path where the good way is; walk in it and you will find rest for your souls."

After several weeks of sleepless nights and a mind that is constantly running as if the whole world depended on me- which I sometimes arrogantly believe it does-rest for my soul sounds like the greatest gift in the world.  Maybe you can relate?

We're entering for most of us the busiest time of the year, giving us plenty of opportunity to get off track, miss the point, and end up tired and worn out.  This isn't the ancient path, the good way.  This is the way of the world, the way of American life in 2014.  I encourage you to also seek the ancient path.  Because the next part of the verse tells us how God is faithful to get our attention when we don't turn back to's not a pretty picture.

It's much better to fall on The Rock and be broken and humbled than to have The Rock fall on you and be crushed under it's weight.  And with a promise of rest for your soul if you choose and walks the godly way, why would we ever choose another way?  May we return to the Lord and cast off the worldly way.  May we choose to live not for ourselves, what we can gain, get, take, but instead what we may do to serve and love others.  May we continually be crucified with Christ so that we no longer live, but it is Christ who lives in us.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Fig Newton Anyone?

I just read through Matthew 21:18-22 where Jesus gets hungry, goes to the fig tree to find a fig to eat, finds no figs, and curses the tree since it bore no fruit so that it instantly withers.

I pray that I may always have a life that produces good fruit for Jesus.  Otherwise, I may find myself following the same path as the fruit tree...a shortened life and destruction.  May we not become complacent in our lives, seeking our own gain, but instead, live in such a way that we honestly and intentionally love Jesus and others more than we love ourselves.  May we produce fruit in our lives that is sweet and good and quenches the hunger of Our Lord.