Our Greatest Danger

danger, Truth, ignorance, SinIf you were to, right now, head out into your neighborhood, school or work place and ask the next ten people that you encountered what the greatest danger we are currently facing is, what do you think their answer would be?  Some might say terrorism or foreign powers who wish us harm, some might say climate change or man’s destruction of the planet and still others might answer that we ourselves are our greatest danger.  And although those answers all have validity, to find out what our greatest danger actually is we must go deeper.

As Christians, our first answer might be Sin, with a capital “S” that indicates man’s fallen and unrepentant state before God.  And while that is an excellent answer it isn’t actually our greatest danger either.  While Sin can broadly be thought of as the main issue behind every other problem we face we know that Sin is not greater than Salvation and that Salvation comes by hearing the Word of God.  Sin is certainly destructive and dangerous but it has a ready answer and a powerful solution.  No, our greatest danger, for both believers and non-believers alike is ignorance of God’s Word and a lack of knowledge of the Truth.

How then will they call on Him in whom they have not believed? How will they believe in Him whom they have not heard? And how will they hear without a preacher?  Romans 10:14-15 (NASB)

So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ.  Romans 10:17 (NASB)

For the non-believer, not hearing the Word of God is the most catastrophic thing that could ever happen to them.  Romans 10 lays it out very clearly.  How can there ever be an answer to their Sin problem without calling on the name of Jesus and how can they call on the name of Jesus unless they believe on Him by hearing His word? In fact, you can rephrase this problem by asking why God calls preachers and teachers of the Gospel in the first place and why 1 Peter 3:15 says so clearly that we should always be ready to make a defense to everyone who asks us to give an account for the hope that is in us.  Quite simply, souls hang in the balance of whether or not we can clearly communicate the gospel of Jesus Christ to those around us.

God’s Word is the answer to the Sin problem but without it there is no remedy for Sin and if we, as believers, are ignorant of what God’s word says and can’t clearly communicate the gospel by our lives, actions and speech then we are in the wrong and are contributing to the Lostness of everyone around us.  That’s a hard truth to hear and to acknowledge but it is so important and so critical that we must not try to tone it down or take it in any other way than head on.  And furthermore, even as believers, none of us our perfect and all of us have areas of our lives where we need to grow and improve in our faith.  Here again, it is knowledge of God’s Word and the study of His book that will give us the strength we need and all of the answers that we are searching for.

Every problem, challenge or danger that we face can be overcome by the power of God and the way that He equips His children is through His words (the Bible) and the Word (Jesus Christ, God in the flesh) as they are one in the same.  Without it, we have no hope and no power.  With it, we have everything we need and all of the hope in the world.

and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free  John 8:32 (NASB)

Do you know the truth?  If so, do you know how to adequately express the truth to those around you by the way that you walk and talk?  My prayer this week is that we would all take our knowledge of the truth seriously and thank God for the revelation of Jesus Christ while we commit to greater understanding of His powerful word.  May God Bless you as you seek Him ever more.

 

How to Overcome and Gain Victory in Suffering

victory, suffering, character, Isaiah 54:17I’ve been watching a Netflix show recently about a group of young adults who, one and all, have had to overcome great obstacles and, in many cases, personal tragedy in order to reach their goals and be successful.  What’s interesting to me is that even though the series has a positive tone, it hasn’t pulled any punches or tried to gloss over the suffering that each of these characters has experienced nor has it failed to show the consequences of their decisions.  A few have thrived and really used the difficulties that they have faced to become stronger and wiser while others have tried to cope by running away or turning to substance abuse.  One, in particular, decided that his greatest problem was caused by some of the people close to him and that led him to act in a way that had truly tragic circumstances for several of them.

You could say then, that even though they were completely different people with varied backgrounds and abilities, what really defined them in the end was how they overcame adversity and responded to suffering.  And even though this was based on fictional characters and a fictional story, I am convinced that this is a lesson that we need to learn well and take to heart.  Our lives and our legacy will be, in large part, defined by how well we overcome adversity and the character that we show while experiencing suffering.

One of the main characters in the show was a young lady who struggled and made it through law school but as a result of her singular focus on passing the bar exam she developed very bad eating and sleeping habits that led to weight gain and poor overall health with some serious side effects.  She had to learn how to be a healthy person and treat her body with the same attention and care that she gave to her learning while still taking care of her responsibilities at her job and in her home.  She likes to say that she isn’t the smartest or most attractive but that once she puts her mind to it, she can do anything and over the course of the series she displays this same plucky attitude over and over again and refuses to ever give up or quit.

This type of positive thinking and inner fortitude is admirable and makes for good television but, in the real world, it often doesn’t work like that.  There are some chains that just can’t be broken, some illnesses that can’t be overcome and some problems that can’t be solved by positive thinking and inner strength.  With all of the things that afflict us, both from without and within, there is only one power and one solution that can overcome the greatest obstacle time and time again.  That power belongs to God and God alone but is available to us through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit who lives in us.

Many problems, many obstacles and many afflictions and not one of them can stand in the face of the power of God Almighty.  At the sound of His name every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that He is Lord and even Death itself must give way.  In Him there is hope, there is strength, there is love and there is forgiveness.  Whatever we have faced in the past, are facing today or will face tomorrow He can redeem it and give us the ultimate victory.  This is God’s promise to those who would give Him their hearts and lives and this is the best response to the obstacles we face and the suffering we must endure.

Whatever it is, cry out to God and give it to Him.  Admit your inability to solve it on your own and confess your trust in Him.  Then, prepare to be amazed with God and His work in your life!

No weapon formed against you shall prosper,
And every tongue which rises against you in judgment
You shall condemn.
This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord,
And their righteousness is from Me,”
Says the Lord.  Isaiah 54:17 (NKJV)

Small Steps Big Rewards

Hebrews 11:6, diligence, faithWho likes rewards?  I know I do!  It’s satisfying to receive a reward, especially after having worked towards a goal or purpose and then accomplishing it.

The right reward can help us to stay motivated and to keep on working even over long and difficult periods where it seems like we are making little progress.  It is natural to want quick results but when we don’t see them it is tempting to get disheartened and to give up.  That is where the promises in God’s word can help us.

But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him. (Hebrews 11:6 NKJV)

The book of Hebrews has a lot to say about faith.  And Hebrews 11:6 begins by letting us know that we must come to God in faith.  As we strive to do God’s work we must do it through our faith in Him and His power.  We can be sustained in our efforts only by placing our faith and trust in our Heavenly Father who is always there for us.

Notice also the last part of Hebrews 11:6.  Not only must we have faith to please God but we must also trust that God rewards those who diligently seek Him.  And what is diligence?

diligence: constant and earnest effort to accomplish what is undertaken, careful and persistent work or effort, steadfast application

Diligence is not giving up.  Diligence is keeping on, little by little, day by day.  Diligence stays the course even when times are tough and nothing seems to be going right.

I find it encouraging that God will reward my consistent and persistent efforts.  Sometimes I feel like I might be close to the end of my rope physically and mentally and all I have left is my desire not to give up.  And instead of being discouraged by my weakness and lack God wants me to understand that he is sufficient at all times if I will just continue to rely on Him.

The Lord says to us “don’t give up, I have what you need.  Keep coming to me with your weakness and failings and I will be your strength and your success”.  He wants us to stick close to Him, even when we can’t understand what’s happening or where we might be going.

What He doesn’t want us to do is to give in to our discouragement.  It’s very tempting to run and hide or even to get mad at God and stop talking to Him when things aren’t going well.  But if we remain diligent then God tells us that we will be rewarded.

And what are the rewards that God offers us?  Ultimately, being with him in a place called heaven, which will be beyond anything that we can imagine.  But here on this earth He offers us peace in the midst of trials, grace that is greater than any of our failings and His steadfast love that is strong enough to see us through.  God’s presence is real and powerful and true fellowship with Him is one of the sweetest things that we can experience in this life.  All of this He offers to us.

Will we remain diligent and faithful and experience all that God has for us?  I pray that we would.

As Iron Sharpens Iron

Proverbs 27:17, knowledge, wisdomAs iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another – Proverbs 27:17.  We all need to be sharpened and we all need to grow in our faith and knowledge of the Lord.  In doing some research for my writing I came across several excellent articles that really sharpened and helped me immensely and I want to share a few of them with you.  But before I do so, let me say this:

Although I fall short in many areas God has richly blessed me with an intense curiosity and a strong desire to learn.  If I want to know something or solve a problem or if I am having difficulty in a certain area of my life then I will always try to figure out what the problem is and how to solve it.  Most of the success that I have had in my life is due to my seeking out those who are wiser and more successful than I and modeling their behavior.  This is good advice no matter who or where you are.  If you want to be a smarter, wiser and sharper person, find the sharpest and most successful folks you can (and the internet is a fantastic resource for doing this) and learn to think and act like them.

(For two great Biblical examples of this, see the writings of King David in Psalms and the writings of Paul in the New Testament).

Now to the articles!

On the topic of Christian liberty and with an excerpt that should really get you thinking:  https://www.gty.org/library/sermons-library/80-11/the-true-meaning-of-christian-freedom

What does it mean to walk in the Spirit?  Walk is the idea of daily conduct, daily conduct, routine life pattern.  And how do you walk in the Spirit?  Very simply, where does the Spirit reveal His will?  Where does the Spirit give us His direction?  In the Word of God, right?  I don’t think walking in the Spirit is mystical or ethereal, I don’t think it’s some kind of heavenly thing, I don’t think it’s some kind of ecstatic emotional experience. Walking in the Spirit is very simple, it is walking in obedience to the mind and will of the Spirit of God.  And that means to be saturated with the Word of God so that the Word of Christ dwells in you richly and that then, that word then becomes the control factor used by the Spirit of God to lead you into obedience.  It isn’t enough to become a Christian and then stand around in a vacuum of knowledge without any information out of the Word of God and hope everything turns out right.  We have to be saturated in the Word of God on a day-by-day basis so that the Word of God implanted in the mind and the heart becomes the control vehicle by which the Spirit of God leads us as we live day by day.  And when we’re filled with the Word of God, controlled by the Spirit of God, walk in obedience to that revealed will of God, we will not fulfill the lust of the flesh, but we will fulfill the law by loving each other.

The whole sermon is quite a read but is well worth your time and effort!

 

And on the Christian perspective of boredom (do you get bored?  I do, and from what I read here I need to be very careful about that!)  https://www.desiringgod.org/articles/god-s-beauty-for-the-bored-busy-and-depressed

“What immediately leaps to our mind when we see the word holiness?” asks Dane. “Austerity. Coldness. Grim-faced. Jaw-set. In one of his early sermons Edwards says, ‘Holiness is a most beautiful, lovely thing. Men are apt to drink in strange notions of holiness from their childhood as if it were a melancholy, morose, sour thing.’ But Edwards says there is nothing in holiness but what is sweet and ravishingly lovely. Sin is mire and filth. Holiness is sweet, lovely, delightful, serene, calm. That corrects me. Holiness is calming. It is the only route by which I can actually enjoy my life, because I am not delighting in the world’s fraudulent offers of happiness. Holiness is quietly thrilling. Where else would you want to live but in the brightness of holiness?”

How does not being bored fit in with holiness?  Well, you’ll just have to read the article to find out!

And finally, still one more fantastic resource on the Christian perspective of boredom.  This one really convicted me!  http://www.keepbelieving.com/sermon/overcoming-boredom/

This week I was asked if boredom is a sin. Good question. After contemplating the matter, I think the answer is that sin and boredom go together, but I would rather say that boredom is a disease of the soul. It is a warning sign from God that there is a “dis-ease” in your heart that must be faced. Boredom is a sign that your life is moving in the wrong direction.

How can we overcome boredom? It requires a reorientation of the way we approach each day. I’d like to combine two very familiar verses—Ecclesiastes 9:10 and Colossians 3:17—in order to find a biblical answer to boredom.

Using the above resources God really opened my eyes about some things in my life.  You may not need the specific lessons that these articles are trying to teach but I would still encourage you to be a knowledge seeker and a wisdom searcher in all that you do.  God has provided everything that we need to be strong and complete in Him but it is up to us to learn and apply those resources.  No matter what you are working on or where you happen to be in your search, my prayer is that God would richly bless your efforts as you go.

 

The Power of a Simple Gift – Operation Christmas Child

Operation Christmas Child, shoeboxes

Vicki is hard at work on shoebox gifts.

Operation Christmas Child is an endeavor that is near and dear to my heart.  Not only do I sincerely believe in the power of one simple gift, it also happens to be one of  my wife’s most favorite things.  Anything that brings her that much joy and happens to be an amazing tool for ministry deserves all of the support that I can give it.

If you don’t know what I’m talking about then I invite you to read the  following excerpt from Operation Christmas Child: A Story of Simple Gifts.

A Story from Operation Christmas Child

Not sure that your one shoebox will make a difference?  Read an actual account from Bosnia in 1993 (one of the first shoebox distributions).

 If any American city had experienced a December snowfall of five feet, no school would have been open.  But on that frosty morning in Bosnia, Lejla’s mother woke her, dressed her, and put an old pair of shoes on her feet.  The toes of the shoes were ripped open.  Her father had tried to close them up with steel wire but the leather was so rotten it wouldn’t hold together.  Lejla’s mother wrapped her feet in bags and sent her out into the arctic chill that defined Balkan winters.

A bulldozer had come through early that morning and cleared a narrow path in the road that remained slippery and messy.  Lejla may have been walking toward the school five miles away, but she had no intention of showing up there.  If ever an adolescent was on the brink of giving up, it was Lejla.  To prove it, she purposely detoured into a landmine field where just the day before her best friend had been killed and another friend had lost his leg in an explosion.  Maybe if she walked through the same field she could end her miserable life.  She had no reason to live.  With no coat to keep her warm, maybe she would even die from the frigid temperatures, she thought.  She was tired of being cold, weary of hunger pains, and afraid of the future.

After fourty-five minutes of wandering through the landmine field with no answers and no explosions, Lejla looked into the sky and cried, “God, I hate you for hating me so much and wanting me to suffer like this.  If you think I’m going to live like this, I’ll show you.”  Then she headed toward Sniper Alley with the certainty it promised; a one hundred percent guarantee of being shot to death.  She slipped under the barricade and wrenched her neck up toward the mountain, waiting for the powerful boom to end her misery.  It didn’t happen.

I found myself walking toward the school, disappointed I had survived Sniper Alley.  As I approached, I saw some kids holding boxes and I wondered where they had gotten them.  We had nothing new; even primitive items were scarce.  As I got close, I noticed how bright and beautiful the boxes were.  One of the boys said, “There are people inside giving these away.  You can get one too.”

Why do I need a box? Lejla thought.  I don’t have anything to put in it.  It’s pretty, but it won’t do me any good.  When I walked inside, I saw an older gentleman sitting on the steps.  He jumped up and grabbed a box from the top of the pile and headed toward me.  But I didn’t want any interaction.  I wanted to be left alone.  I was bitter and hateful.  To make matters worse, the man had a big smile on his face and gently said, “I want you to have this.”  I took it so he would go away quickly, but to my surprise the box was not empty.  The heaviness caused my hands to give way slightly.  I took hold, turned and ran as fast as I could until I found a solitary corner and slumped to the floor, cradling the box in my lap.  My heart was racing and my emotions were fragile.  Do I dare hope for what might be inside?  After all, this is a shoebox.  I looked down at my frozen feet, and then with great apprehension, lifted the lid.  Inside was a pair of brand new sneakers.

For some time I sat and cried while lifting the lid and closing it.  The crying had left me weak and quivering.  I felt sick, then happy.  As I drew the sneakers out of the box, my hands bumped into other things.  The shoes that fit perfectly were enough, but more?

I pulled out a twelve pack of pencils.  My entire class of fifty-eight students had been sharing a nub of one pencil all year long, and now I had my very own!  A notebook was there to replace the one I had used for three years, with hardly scribble space left.  Then I discovered erasers that smelled like strawberries – the first smell of anything pleasant that I could remember.  When I clasped a tube of toothpaste, I opened and tasted it.  The flavor was so delicious that I nearly ate it all.  Energized by the thrill, I gathered my new belongings and got home as fast as I could, hoping that none of the kids would steal my box from me on the way.

My mother was stunned when I came through the door and inquired where I had gotten all of my treasures.  “A man gave them to me and said the box was from Jesus.”  I assumed there was someone in America by that name.  That night, I pulled out my new pencil and notebook and wrote a letter to Jesus, telling Him things I had never told anyone.

At school the next day, I found the man who had given me the box and asked him if he would take the letter to America and give it to Jesus.  He explained that Jesus was God’s Son and that He came to pay the penalty for man’s sin.  He told me that Jesus is the One who died for our sins and that if I confessed my sin to Him, Jesus would forgive me and love me as His very own.  The man spoke truth to me and I had no reason to doubt him, for I already knew that He had heard and answered my prayer.  He was real and I knew He had mercy. 

In Jesus’ wonderful way, He reached down from Heaven into a little girl’s frightened heart and saved me, and He used a shoebox to do this miracle in my life.  Today, I may not have the physical possessions that filled my shoebox that day, but I have the most valuable and lasting possession – eternal salvation and assurance that my soul belongs to Him.

To make it sweeter, He allowed me to come to America and personally say “hvala” (thank you) to all those Christians who make the shoebox ministry possible.  I have my own family now and we are privileged to pack fifteen hundred shoeboxes each year.  If only one person finds salvation through these boxes, my life will have been worthwhile.  I am among the one hundred million souls that have been touched by Operation Christmas Child, and changed by the Jesus of Heaven and Earth who reached out to me.

Choose to Get Involved

The power of one simple gift in the form of a shoebox full of goodies is this: it beautifully and simply illustrates a gift given out of love with no expectation of anything in return to someone who has most likely never received a gift before.  In other words, it shows by example just what Christ did for us and opens a door in a child’s heart to receive His love.  This is the message and the ministry of Operation Christmas Child.

If you’d like to participate there’s still time.  Shoebox collection week is November 13th through November 20th and there are drop-off locations nationwide.  Packing a shoebox is easy!  Don’t have time to pack a shoebox?  Each shoebox costs $9 to ship and that is a very inexpensive and easy donation that would sponsor a gift that could save the soul of a child.  Or, you can build your box online through the Operation Christmas Child website.  And please don’t forget to pray that each box is guided by the Holy Spirit to the child who needs it most!

However you do it, choose to get involved.  On that glorious day when you are walking down the streets of paradise you could be approached by another child of God who says to you “Thank you for your gift.  I am here because you chose to give”.  That is indeed the power of one simple gift.

Do What You Want?

plans, goals, 2 Samuel, King DavidHave you ever planned something that seemed like a great idea at the time but then turned out to be totally wrong?  I know I have and I think the answer for most folks who are old enough to make their own decisions would be an emphatic “yep, I’ve done that!”.  Despite our best intentions, sometimes we get it wrong and sometimes even our best ideas are not what God has in mind.

The thing of it is, God most certainly does use and bless human initiative.  We can study the Bible and see many instances where this is clearly the case.  Not everything that we desire to do is wrong just as not everything we desire to do is right.  So how do we tell the difference?  How can we be sure that we aren’t going against God’s will as we are making our plans and living out our lives?

For sure, this is a complex question and one that I will not be fully able to answer with a simple blog post.  But it is a question that is worth asking and worth thinking about if we want to be the kind of Christ followers that God would have us to be.

Here are a couple of examples from scripture to get us started:

 Now King David was told, “The Lord has blessed the household of Obed-Edom and everything he has, because of the ark of God.” So David went to bring up the ark of God from the house of Obed-Edom to the City of David with rejoicing.  When those who were carrying the ark of the Lord had taken six steps, he sacrificed a bull and a fattened calf.  Wearing a linen ephod, David was dancing before the Lord with all his might,  while he and all Israel were bringing up the ark of the Lord with shouts and the sound of trumpets.

As the ark of the Lord was entering the City of David, Michal daughter of Saul watched from a window. And when she saw King David leaping and dancing before the Lord, she despised him in her heart.  2 Samuel 6:12-16 (NIV)

David, as King of Israel, decided that he wanted to bring the Ark of God home.  David and a group of men went to retrieve the Ark from where it had been staying and David purposed in his heart not only to sacrifice a bull and fattened calf but also to “dance with all of his might” before the Lord.  Scripture doesn’t tell us exactly what God thought of David’s plan and his subsequent behavior but it certainly does tell us that someone very close to David (Michal – David’s first wife and daughter of the former king Saul) thought very poorly of how David went about praising God.

David’s response to Michal is recorded in verse 21: David said to Michal, “It was before the Lord, who chose me rather than your father or anyone from his house when he appointed me ruler over the Lord’s people Israel—I will celebrate before the Lord.  2 Samuel 6:21 (NIV)

In essence he says “God made me King and I will celebrate and praise Him in the way that I see fit” which is, it seems to me, a reasonable response.

I think it is interesting to note that God could have stopped either plan (the moving of the Ark and David’s enthusiastic praise) but chose not to.  And I think that sometimes, just as David did, we need to make the best plan that we can with what God has already revealed to us and just do it.  David could see how God blessed the former resting place of the Ark (the household of Obed-Edom) and I am sure he wanted those same blessings for his home city.  He set about carryout out his plan to bring the Ark home and he did it with praise and thanksgiving – always the best way to carry out any plan!

Here’s another instance from scripture with a different outcome:

After the king was settled in his palace and the Lord had given him rest from all his enemies around him,  he said to Nathan the prophet, “Here I am, living in a house of cedar, while the ark of God remains in a tent.”

 Nathan replied to the king, “Whatever you have in mind, go ahead and do it, for the Lord is with you.”

But that night the word of the Lord came to Nathan, saying:

 “Go and tell my servant David, ‘This is what the Lord says: Are you the one to build me a house to dwell in?  I have not dwelt in a house from the day I brought the Israelites up out of Egypt to this day. I have been moving from place to place with a tent as my dwelling. Wherever I have moved with all the Israelites, did I ever say to any of their rulers whom I commanded to shepherd my people Israel, “Why have you not built me a house of cedar?”’  2 Samuel 7:1-7 (NIV)

David has now brought the Ark home and has now finally subdued the Philistines and another plan begins to form in his mind.  He now wants to build God a temple (and by extension, move the Ark into a permanent resting place instead of the movable tent that it was in at the time) and “upgrade” God’s dwelling.  And this sounds like such a great idea that Nathan, a highly respected prophet and man of God, immediately agrees with him.

That night, most likely as Nathan slept, God gave Nathan a message for David.  David’s plan was not God’s plan, at least not yet.  We know from history that Solomon, David’s son, was tasked with building God’s temple but that was not to be David’s task.  God had other plans for David and He used Nathan to deliver His message.  This time, God stepped in and asked David to change his plan and, to David’s credit, he listened to God and did as he was asked.

It comes down to trust and acknowledgement.  We must trust God with our plans and trust that He will lead and guide us as we go.  We must also acknowledge that only He has the authority to change us, change our lives and change our direction.  He has the final say and we must give Him the opportunity to change our minds, change our circumstances and ultimately to change any plans that we might have.

His plans are perfect.  Ours tend to be less so.  Do we trust Him with our plans and then acknowledge His authority in our lives as we go?

A Fresh Perspective

perception, blessings, thankfulnessThese days I make it a habit to stop by my favorite coffee shop at least once a week on my way to work.  The coffee is excellent, the service is friendly and I can pick up a bag of freshly roasted coffee beans while I am there.  For a coffee lover such as myself, it’s a great place to shop and that has as much to do with the product they sell as it does with the people who work there.

During my visit this past week, one of the regular employees opened the door for me as I entered the building.  As he opened the door he said, “Hey Matthew!” which was not only nice and appreciated but also quite surprising in that he remembered my name.  After I concluded my business at the counter I walked over to where he was working (he was in the process of roasting a fresh batch of beans which not only smelled amazing it was quite fascinating to watch) and struck up a conversation with him.

It turns out that he remembered me not only because I am a frequent customer but also because I drive my Mazda MX-5 Miata to work and he, being a fan who was thinking of purchasing one in the future, had noticed it.  Of course any time someone wants to talk cars I am more than happy to oblige in that conversation, being an enthusiast myself.  And the fact that this happened inside my favorite coffee shop with a fresh cup in my hand just made it all the better.  Here were two of my favorite things happening at the same time in the same place and I remember being very happy and thankful for the encounter.

We spoke for just a few minutes about the Miata and why he liked them and I have to say his enthusiasm was catching.  I walked back out to my car at the conclusion of the conversation with a big smile on my face, not only because I enjoyed the chat, but because it allowed me to see the Miata with a fresh perspective.  All of a sudden, I remembered all of the reasons that I had sought the Miata out and it was like I was sitting in it again for the first time and appreciating what a fun and and interesting car that it really is.  Seeing the car through someone else’s eyes and listening to their enthusiasm for it helped to rekindle my own.

Later that day, as I was thinking back on my experience, the Lord brought something to my mind.  It is part of our nature as human beings to take good things for granted once we become accustomed to them.  We do this not only to material possessions  (like I did with my car) but also to our relationships with the people around us.  And then there is that most important relationship, the one between us and God, that I fear we also tend to take for granted.

I know that I do, if I am not careful.  Unless I am vigilant I tend to take so many of the blessings in my life for granted and I know that it’s easy to just skim the surface of how awesome our God really is and all that He has done for us.  I know that unless I take the time to slow down and ask Him to give me a fresh perspective on who He is that I am likely to miss much of who He is and what He is doing.

For that reason, my prayer lately has been that God would allow my heart to grow and my spiritual eyesight to sharpen so that I might better perceive Him and His handiwork.  I want to know Him better and to be a better friend to Him because He has been such a great friend to me.  I can see how I was beginning to take some things for granted and I am so glad that God loves me enough to correct me and to show me a better way.

Sometimes, it takes an object lesson from life experience in order for God to teach us something.  Our responsibility is to be teachable and to be listening for when and how He speaks.  God is so amazing that He can use seemingly normal, everyday circumstances in order to reveal Himself to us.  My prayer is that we would be on the lookout for Him and be actively seeking to know Him better through it all.

 

 

Why Do You Believe?

1 Peter 3:15, apologetics, faithA recent sermon I heard was based around the question “Why should I believe in God?”

If you are reading this blog I hope that you have already answered that question; even so it bears repeating.  Why do you believe in God?

15 But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear (1 Peter 3:15 NKJV)

If we are to be able to give a defense to everyone who asks us, as 1 Peter 3:15 says, then we need to be very sure about our belief.  We need to have that answer ready at hand, not as a scripted response but as a heartfelt statement of faith.  The world desperately needs men and women who are standing firm on their belief in their savior and are not afraid to verbalize it when called on to do so.

On a personal level, I believe in God because I have experienced His presence and because He has changed me from the inside out.  When I was at my lowest I cried out to Him and He came and found me.  His touch was not physical but it left an unmistakable impression on my soul and since then my desire has been only to serve and to love Him with my whole heart.

I have a personal relationship with Him.  I talk to Him all of the time.  I tell Him about my day, confess my fears, worries and mistakes and thank Him for His goodness.  I ask Him for His blessing and protection and His will to be done in the lives of many.

I gave my heart to Him and in exchange He has given me hope for the future, peace in the face of trials and love for myself and my fellow man.  While I am still far, far from perfect I rejoice in knowing that little by little, He is making me like Him.

That is why I believe.  I am passionate about my defense of the gospel and my hope for all believers is that they would be able to give a similar type of answer to the question “Why do you believe?”  And beyond that, I am of the opinion that all believers should be passionate about their belief and the God who saved them.  Not that we should be bullies or insensitive, because that is not the essence of true love, but that we should be ready to firmly and wisely defend the reasons for our faith.

Project 2020

goals, plans, dreamsI started a new writing project recently, one that is quite different than anything that I have attempted before.  I don’t want to go into to much detail just yet.  Many things about it could change before it is completed but at this point there are a couple of things that I know for sure and can share.

  1. It will be one of the longest pieces that I have ever written if not the longest.  It won’t be anything like book length (at least I don’t think it will) but it will be much, much longer than the weekly blog posts.
  2. If things go as planned it will take around three years to complete and there’s a very specific reason for that length of time.
  3. I will be releasing it in stages as I reach certain milestones.
  4. The genre will be loosely “documentary” and I plan to mix my writing with photos and video.
  5. When all is said and done it might only be interesting to me but that is the kind of risk you take with something like this.

It’s hard to say exactly when the seed for this project was planted but the process that I will be documenting is based on a decision I made a couple of months ago.  From the beginning I’ve wanted to write about this particular topic but until I really thought and prayed about it I didn’t really understand how I could incorporate it in to Matthew515 properly.

That praying, thinking and planning process is continuing and will continue because this will be an on-going project with a definite goal at the end.  I said earlier that I thought it would take around three years time to fully complete and that is because I have a specific goal of age 45 for completion and I will be 45 in March of 2020.

Although 2020 is my target I always, in everything I do, want to be sensitive to God’s will and His plan for my life.  From the beginning I’ve let it be known that I give God full authority to change my course and alter or do away with the project and the goal completely.  This project is human initiative but I want it to be human initiative under God’s direction and in a way that would be pleasing to Him.  That might mean that the goal gets pushed back (if it moves at all it would be more likely to be pushed back than to move forward and those reasons will be discussed within the project itself) because ultimately the timing is in God’s hands, not mine.

On a personal level, thinking about and planning for something that is several years out is difficult for me to do.  I have always been a “right now” person (which is both good and bad) and I’ve not given the future as much thought as I probably should have.  I am not a visionary or someone who tends to set grand goals and I tend to stay focused on the here and now.  That’s not to say that I never think about what is to come (I am very excited for what God has in store for His children!) but just that I don’t tend to spend much time thinking about what happens next here on earth.  For me to have set a goal that is that far out is something brand new and feels as exciting as it does daunting.  It’s something that’s not really in my nature so I know that in order for it to be completed the focus, inspiration and energy will have to come from the Lord.

That’s all for now and I hope to have more to say about this in the very near future.  My God bless and keep you as you go!

The Privilege And Pleasure Of Proclamation

important message, praise, God is goodI’m doing this because I told the Lord that I would.  Let me explain:

Last month was a difficult one.  There were several things that I was praying specifically for but one in particular really burdened me.  I prayed that it would come to pass nearly every day and sometimes more than once a day.  Not only did this thing have the potential to effect me positively but it also had the potential of lifting up and encouraging everyone that I work with on a daily basis.

But even as I began earnestly praying I recognized that it was more important that God’s will be done than this one thing come to pass.  So as I prayed I told the Lord that I would praise Him and make it known if He allowed this thing to come to pass and if not, I would praise Him anyway.  Publicly.

The fact is, He is worthy of my praise and even when things don’t go according to my plan they will always go according to His plan.  Job said it like this:

“I know that You can do all things, And that no purpose of Yours can be thwarted. (Job 42:2)

God’s purpose will be accomplished and His plans never fail.  So as I prayed I did so with the knowledge that God’s will was higher than my plans and I yielded myself to His will for my life and waited to see what the outcome would be.

Today I can tell you that the thing that I was praying for did not come to pass.  I was disappointed  and saddened but also encouraged that God had a higher purpose beyond what I could see.  Do I wonder why God did not allow this thing to come to pass?  Of course I do.  I wanted it for myself and for my co-workers and as far as I could see, it would only be a good thing.  But I can only see a fraction of the whole.  God sees it all.  I wanted what I thought was good but God wants to give me what is best, always.

I give thanks to the Lord because He is good.  I make it known to any who would read this that I trust in the Lord even when things don’t go exactly like I want them to go.  I recognize that His will and plans are perfect and that I am not.  And I say that it is a privilege and a pleasure to be able to write about how good God is and how blessed I am to be called one of His children.

Thank you Lord, for being so good to me!