Thursday, February 24, 2011

Hidden Promises

I feel like I've traded God's promises for the promises of this earth: success, prestige, stuff.  And now, when I'm ready to trade back, God's promises are hidden!  It's as if God is holding me back with his hand saying, "Matt are you sure you want to trade?  There's no going back to the world."

I don't know if I'm ready, but I want to be.  I want to forsake all else other than the heart of our Lord.  I just really have no clue how to do this!  Can I get some discipleship here!

I stumbled upon this chapter in John recently (I say stumbled, because it is rare that I read Scripture...yes, I know...).John 14.  It's jam-packed with good stuff, but I want to hone in on a few verses.  14:12-14 "Whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father.  And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son.  You may ask me for anything in my name and I will do it."

Pause...deep breath...yes.  Yes, that's what Jesus says...but none of us believe.

I do not think in all of my life I have heard a pastor, priest, or anyone else preach a sermon on this.  Why?  Is it simply because we don't want to over-reach and ask God to do big things?  Or have we tried to rationalize like I do: well, Jesus was just talking to His immediate disciples.

Is it because we do not believe in His power?  Believe Jesus?

I will tell you that I'm struggling with this one.  Because I believe and disbelieve.  I go to the office and, on a good or bad day, I have never seen these works that Jesus mentions.  Am I working in the wrong place, with the wrong people, on the wrong continent?  Does God not work that way anymore?

I think He does.  But something has gone incredibly wrong.  Wrong in our churches and in our hearts.  It's like someone has gradually dimmed the lights on us so that now we're in complete darkness.  We didn't notice at first, but now we're standing in pitch blackness! 

Enter: Satan.  "The prince of this world is coming.  He has no hold over me, but he comes so that the world may learn that I love the Father and do exactly what my Father has commanded me."

This is Jesus' response.  This is his life.  His interaction with Satan is that the world will learn that He loves the Father.  Beautiful.  I want to mimic Jesus in this way.  So that I can say, "Satan has no hold over me, but he comes so that the world may learn that I love Jesus and do exactly what Jesus has commanded me."   Lord, let it be.

And so in this darkness we find ourselves, we are given an opportunity of greatness.  Not to ourselves, but to our Lord.  Because it is in darkness that light shines brightest right?  I am starting to truly believe that if I begin to believe Jesus fully and do exactly as He commands, this life will look much different.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Like a Child

Friday I had lunch with a friend of mine, Jeff.  He and his wife Kim have 5 kids and love our Lord.  For the last year or so, they've been on a journey of faith that many of us cannot imagine.  They have been unemployed with no consistent income stream and yet have had ever bill paid and not been late once.

Don't get me wrong, they're working hard and being amazing stewards of what they have, but they are choosing faith rather than fear.  And for their 5 kids, this is likely to be the greatest testament and teaching moment in history: they are learning to follow and trust Jesus as a family.

My Kim and I were over at their home Sunday and it looks like the kids were having a ball.  Running around the yard with their newly adopted dog Charlie (or Chuck when the dog's getting on Jeff's nerves) the kids aren't missing a beat.  In fact, in many ways, the kids are helping lead the family in faith.

Jeff told me a story about how someone bought a ton of food for their family and came fully stocking their pantry.  When Kim announced to the family that God had provided them food, one of their children came into the room from playing a game, said "of course God gave us food" and went back to playing.  Both Kim and Jeff first thought he was being rude, but then decided that he was completely right!  Of course God will provide!

And so, we once again are led by the faith of a child.

Another thing Jeff said was that children who believe they have good fathers never worry about anything.  They know they'll be provided for every need.  And so they would be surprised if anyone even brought up the idea of being taken care of.  Instead, children who have bad fathers do worry about these things.

The problem is, I worry about these things and my Father epitomizes good.  Instead, I simply do not trust Him nor most of the time believe he is good.  If only I could capture the faith like a child.  Maybe we can.

Lord, may I truly believe You are good.  May I trust You.  May I believe that You will always provide for Kim and me.  May I have the faith like a child that is surprised by the idea of not trusting You.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Collapsing Sandcastles

There is a song by Switchfoot that sums up how I felt this past week: "Let that Be Enough"...

"I wish I had what I need
To be on my own
'Cause I feel so defeated
And I'm feeling alone

And it all seems so helpless
And I have no plans
I'm a plane in the sunset
With nowhere to land"

And all I see
It could never make me happy And all my sand castles
Spend their time collapsing"

No matter how much I tell myself that it'll get better, or it's just a bad week, or think about all the people who have it much worse than you do, feelings don't change.  Because although all of these things are true, they don't answer the question I'm really asking.  They don't capture my heart.

And most of this week, that's where I stayed.  My sandcastles were collapsing and I had no control over any of it.  It turns out...I can't stop the tide.

"And I feel stuck
Watching history repeating
Yeah, who am I?
Just a kid who knows he's needy"

It took a whole week for me to get past myself and ask the right question that was at the heart of my frustration.  Lord...

"Let me know that You hear me
Let me know Your touch
Let me know that You love me
And let that be enough"

I am finding that most of my life is spent chasing things that are in addition to Jesus.  Jesus + success.  Jesus + wealth.  Jesus + religion.  Jesus + ___.  And yes I know this will not be the last time I say this, but I'm tired of living in a Jesus + world.

Pete, our teaching pastor at Crosspoint Church quoted someone else today who said, "Religion always complicates what God makes simple."  Too true.  And I complicate this life that God made simple.  Instead of grasping for control, trying to hold back the tides from sweeping my castles away, may I simply know that You hear me, are hear, and love me.  And let that be enough.

Monday, February 14, 2011

But for the Grace of God

This Saturday I spent about 8 excruciating hours at a Lion's Club district meeting.  There were 200 lions (people) there and I felt as if it were 200 senators or representatives.  Each second dragged by as if an eternity with death knocking at my door as the blood flow to my brain continued to slow with each moment.  Okay, that may be an exaggeration, but it was pretty rough.

Then for about 5 minutes within the 8 hours there was a breath of fresh air.  A speaker from the international directors from Brooklyn, New York addressed the audience.  For most of his speech I was locked in a state of limbo wondering if I would be able to restart my brain after the day, but for a few minutes in between the nonsense was words of truth and words of conviction.

He entered into a story of how one Lion's Club had helped him realize the true need around us.  He participated in some sort of homeless service when the light bulb went on for him.  And with his story, the light bulb began to burn brighter for me.

As he looked into the eyes of those families in such need in the metro areas of Brooklyn, he thought, "there but for the grace of God, me and my family could be there (said Douglas Alexander of a homeless shelter)."

How true is that?

If we had simply been born into a different family, a different country, a different continent, we'd be devastatingly poor.  We obviously had no control over this; it was only the grace of God.

And this is why he became involved with Lions Club.  Because the light went on in his heart that the lowest of all of us, could have been us had God birthed us into a different life.  And now, his mission is to do exactly what Jesus has called us to: give sight to the blind, food to the hungry, shelter to the homeless.  Is this not all of our missions?

Why do we spend so much on time on the sidelines?  Why have I spent 32 hours over the last 3 weeks playing Zelda on Wii instead of giving sight to the blind, food to the hungry, shelter to the homeless???

Lord, please forgive me.  Recapture my heart.  And teach me to give myself in service to our brothers and sisters in need.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Empty Nets

At 8pm Wednesday night all of my meetings for Thursday canceled.

I woke up and made it to the office by 8am on a nice snowy day.  No traffic because of the snow; no meetings because of the snow.

So, I asked God what in the world am I supposed to do today and decided to make some phone calls and wrap up my day at about 9:45am.  I gave the day to God, for whatever he had in store and planned to keep no meetings, set a few meetings for the next week, and go home to our good dog Joey...but God had other plans.

Over the course of the day I ended up setting 7 meetings; keeping 4, and bringing on a new client.  It was a good day!

But that's not the point I want to make.  Because there have been plenty of days that turned out nil.  There have been days when I walked in our home after a 10 hour day at work, having nothing to show for the day's work.  Why?  Because God gives and God takes away.  And that's good.  Because it helps me learn to trust.  And I need a ton of help to learn to trust God.

Most of the time I start the day with a list of things I will be doing to keep control.  But the days when I give it all up to God and say, 'whatever may happen, may I honor You Lord', I live out of peace and contentment.  Some of those days I make no money, some are huge successes. But in my heart I am trusting God for whatever He has in store.

A while back, my wonderful bride, Kim, painted the scene out of John 21.  If you make it to my office you'll see it hanging above my desk.  It is a picture of a few disciples of Jesus' sitting in a boat fishing, yet hauling up empty nets.  And here's the point: I'm convinced it's easy to trust Jesus when the days are good and everything I touch brings success.  But I have to learn to trust Jesus when I'm doing what I'm supposed to do, but the results are empty nets.  I pray that you continue hanging onto Jesus even when your hard work yields empty nets.

And one day, when God knows the timing is best, he asks us to fish on the other side of the boat...we won't even be able to lift the nets because the catch will be too big!

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

The Revolutions are Coming

What is going on in the Middle East?

Unless you’ve been living on the moon the past few weeks, you’ve surely notice that three countries are rioting to overthrow their governments: Tunisia, Egypt, and Jordan.  Apparently, the ruling parties aren’t too thrilled with this reaction though and many have stepped up with violence or policy changes or even stepped down.

This is amazing to watch unfold.  It has dominated the headlines and commentary for weeks.  And I’ve been listening for every word for weeks and have been captivated by what's going on.  There is all kind of talk about why everyone is revolting at this moment.  They're comparing it to the civil rights movement here in America or the revolutions from tyranny we've seen worldwide.  Is it about political freedom? Economic?  Religious?  Is it the recession and lack of jobs, no income, no food for families?  Is it about repression, oppression, restitution, redistribution? 

Regardless of why, they are all laying their lives on the line to risk a possible regime change and ultimate freedom.  And it's inspiring.

What is it that I am united behind?  What would I fight to create, to protect?  What is worth laying it all on the line for?  Are there things I need to revolt from in my life?  Do I need to join in on a revolt somewhere else to help others fight for their lives?

Monday, February 7, 2011

Reeling in Vision

How much time have I spent thinking about what God’s vision for my life is?  It’s about time I ask God instead.  I spend way too much time thinking and not enough time asking.  The huge difference between the two is where I find myself.  I’m in the gap…

Do you ever get stuck on something?  Like a broken record keep chewing on the same idea, issue, same conflict, same struggle?  I feel that the question of vision has been a thought echoing in my head for years (yes, my head is hollow).  I’ve heard people talk about vision casting and I guess that sounds good.  I don’t know about you, but I don’t need to hear about vision casting for a church, mission, or job.  I need someone to cast vision over me, to help me see where I’m heading.  My eyes are too dull to see the distance.

Lord, help me see a larger vision for my life.  May You place people in my life to help clarify and articulate this vision.  But most of all, may I hear Your whispers in my ears, secretly confiding in me who I am becoming.  May I quiet myself from the noise of this world and my own thoughts enough to hear you speaking to me.  May I reel in the life that you are casting me into.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011


God speaks in mysterious ways.

Sunday at church was one of those days when I felt the pastor speaking directly to me as if no one else was there.  In fact, I'm not so certain he wasn't even there.  It was as if Our Lord alone was sharing His heart and words with me.

The sermon was based in the book of Esther which, as the pastor told us, is the only book in scripture that never mentions God.  No name of God at all.  No Lord, YHWH, God, etc.  He's not there.  He is absent from the text.  But He is not absent from the story.  Far from it!

You can see God throughout the story weaving circumstances together, drawing hearts and minds to him.  Yet there were no burning bushes, no parting of seas or plagues or famine or feeding of thousands, no miracles.  It was simply the story of God's people, trusting and journeying through faith while God worked through the details in the mundane.  Yet He was still out of sight.

I encourage you to watch this sermon once it is posted online as it speaks exactly to my blog entry from 1/23: White Sand Beaches.  It is the sermon on 1/30/2011.

How is God active around us?  How many times do we not notice?  May we begin to see God in between the lines.  Fully present, fully alive in the midst of the routine of our lives.  May we know our Lord deeper and stronger than before.  And may we continue seeking when it seems He is absent.