Fame

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Our world longs for fame. To know that we are known. The incredible success of reality TV bares witness to this. X-factor, Idols, bachelors and bachelorettes, MTV with no music and excess teen angst, all of this rooted in our need for acclamation.

As I think about this, its our enduring pursuit of fame that confounds me. We observe fames’ inability to satisfy in the lives of those who attain it and yet still pursue it with such devotion.

Why?

Significance. Each of us hopes that our lives will count for something, that in some way the world will be different because we were here. Dreams are not built on aspirations of meaningless insignificance and all of us have dreams.

But not all fame is significant and this is the heart of the issue.

In Matthew 5:14 Jesus calls us the light of the world, a city on a hill that cannot be hidden. These are not insignificant titles. Evidently, in the mind of Christ, hoping for a life of significance is a Godly desire. What is critical is not our desire but our motivation and Matthew 5:16 shows us what right motivation looks like.

“Let your light shine before others SO THAT they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.”(emphasis mine)

Our freedom is found in those two little words… “so that”.

With fame as with everything else our motivation needs to be the Glory of God. Our longing for fame is not only acceptable it is essential. What matters is whose fame we long for.

 The great privilege of the Christian life is not to be known but to make known.

I pray that our lives would be deeply significant as we abandon our own fame and leverage our lives for His.

Much Love
Matt

Blessed

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When I was a young boy my desires were simple; a warm bed, a teddy bear and a steady supply of candy. While admirable in their innocence, these desires were hardly revolutionary. Few lives would be changed by my sugar addiction. Of course, this was to be expected because desire is very often rooted in perspective.

As a child I hoped for so little because I knew so little.

I have come to believe that, as adults, our desires change by name but not necessarily by nature. While our lives may not be governed by candy any more, our longing for cars, houses and wardrobes filled with clothing are hardly revolutionary ideals. Few lives will be changed by my pursuit of status (at least not for the good). We have not left the sugar barons of our youth behind.

We still hope for so little because we know so little.

In Matthew 5 Jesus uses a word that we are well acquainted with. Blessed. However, unlike the “blessedness” of our limited perspective, the blessedness of Christ is found with the poor in spirit, the mourners, the meek, those who long for righteousness, the merciful, the peacemakers and the persecuted. (Matthew 5:2-11)

These blessings are a far cry from the possessions, positions and processions we so passionately pursue. Is this because Jesus has a warped understanding of blessing or because we do?

Jesus sees blessing from the perspective of eternity.

Because of this He understands the futility of a life enslaved to temporary treasure. In love He urges us to change our desires, not only by name but by nature as well. Jesus invites us to trade in our petty “grand ambitions” for the eternal prize that is the Kingdom of God. In love Jesus calls us to a radical transformation of the heart in which we will know blessing in pleasure or pain because we have left our reality and stepped into His.

I pray that our eyes would be opened to the eternal so that in seeing more we would hope for so much more and find Christ.

Much Love
Matt

Ever a new song

This song Ever be by Bethel has been resonating with me strongly over the past few days.

I think it’s because I so strongly believe in its message.

As Psalm 96 so powerfully reminds us, our worship finds a limitless source of inspiration in the excellencies of our God. Because He is who He is we find no shortage of “new songs” to express the awe that His presence inspires.

It is when our hearts shift from Him to the many distractions of our age that we feel the emptiness of misplaced devotion. 

But just one glimpse of Jesus corrects that in a moment. His goodness, His Love, it realigns our hearts, reminding of us of who it is that we were made for, why it is that we breath and what it means to be alive. Our Hearts beat again and our lives are given to worship.

I pray that we would constantly glimpse Jesus so that His praise would ever be on our lips. Not just any praise, but an all consuming praise of grandeur that worthily reflects the God of its origin.

“I pray that we would ascribe to the Lord the glory due His name” Psalm 96:8.

Jesus, you will be praised.

Much Love
Matt

Thrive

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Humans are amazing. We push the limits of possibility; dragging the world of fantasy into reality. Ours is a place of running, jumping, flying, thinking, creating, exploring, discovering, overcoming “super-humans”.

But what sets us apart? Why do some of us live in the world of the ordinary while others push the limits of the extraordinary? Where do the Usain Bolts, Richard Bransons and Neil Armstrongs of our world come from?

Sacrifice, practice, and discipline. These are just some of the ingredients that are common to the lives of such people. Contrary to popular belief the extraordinary life is seldom a matter of chance but rather of decision. What we “get out” is profoundly affected by what we “put in”.

Very often our future reality is determined by our present decision.

So too with spirituality. People rarely stumble into a life of eternal significance, they choose it. Salvation is a gift, we receive it by Grace, but journeying into the fullness of that gift is a road that each of us must walk for ourselves. The life of deep wisdom, profound selflessness, sacrificial love and redemptive grace; that mark of God that we marvel at in others and long for in ourselves, will not come from a steady diet of sitcoms, magazines, or reality TV shows.

The “wisdom” of the temporary will not lead us to the riches of the eternal.

Jesus knew this and in Matthew 4:4 He offers us an alternative.

“Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.”

So often our spirituality is informed by a popularised version of Christianity. We become students of our culture dressed in a convincing christian veneer. But our hearts are not easily fooled. We long for authenticity. And we will find it in the deep wisdom of scripture.

I pray for our choices. That we would choose the depths of His word today so that we may abide in the centre of His heart tomorrow.

Much Love
Matt

Now

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So much of my childhood is a blur. From my early schooling years, to family holidays to chores on Saturday mornings. They all blend together into a kaleidoscope of experience that rushed past me before I had the chance to notice.

There are some memories however, that have stayed with me. The dentist is one of them. Not the dentist himself, I couldn’t tell you what he looked like or what his name was. I couldn’t describe his rooms or tell you how we got there. But the suckers were always red. They ensured my compliance in this unfortunate but necessary experience. I tolerated the dentist for the sake of his sweets.

I think we have turned Jesus into a dentist and heaven into a sucker.

So much of our “christian spirituality” teaches us to tolerate Jesus in order to get to heaven. This is a problem for many reasons, only two of which I have the time to mention here.

First, motivating people to believe in Jesus to get to Heaven creates a culture of idolatry. The emphasis is placed on something other than Jesus and people are taught to long for a place rather than to abide in a person.

Second, emphasising a heaven that is only somewhere we will go when we die creates passive “waiting room” spirituality. Paralysing the church and robbing the world of the active God who intends to bring reconciliation to the broken through those who call themselves Christian.

In Matthew 3:2 the words of John the Baptist should shake a sleeping church into action.

“Repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand”

Heaven is a future hope, but it is also a present reality. Why?

 Because heaven is not a place, it is a person (John 17:3).

Heaven is Jesus and in knowing Him we are changed by Him. In Christ we become ambassadors of another reality, agents of an eternity, which is breaking through the seams of the temporary. When we realise that God is making His appeal to the world through us and choose to take up that mandate we will experience the heaven we hope for tomorrow, today.

His kingdom has come on earth as it is in Heaven and those who are consumed with Christ will experience it and enable others to do the same.

I pray that we would come to love the dentist.

Much Love
Matt

Wise

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Titles matter.

At least that’s what the evidence suggests. In our society “Joe Average” is seldom afforded the same respect as “Doctor Joe Average”.

Words like brave, generous, patient or kind are titles too, and we hope that others will use them to describe us.

Sadly, not all who carry a name have earned it.

Too many of us hide behind a name, hoping that no one will notice the gap between our reputation and our reality.

 Few titles are dependent on a person. Most people are dependent on a title.

In Matthew 2: 11 we find three men with a title. But, unlike so many of us, their reputation is not without merit.

 “They saw the child with Mary His mother, and fell down and worshiped Him. Then, opening their treasures, they offered Him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh.”

If the fear of God really is the beginning of all wisdom, then perhaps there are none wiser than those who recognise God where others have rejected Him and, having seen Him, lay down their greatest treasures in response.

For some, wisdom is an elusive hope, for others it is a current reality. If scripture has anything to teach us, the difference lies in deciding how we will respond to the reality of God.

I pray that we would grow in wisdom. That we would pursue Christ where others have rejected Him and gladly trade the fading treasures of this world for the infinite joy of knowing Jesus.

Much Love
Matt

Weak

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The best. That’s what we look for. From when we picked teams on the sports field as children to the people we befriend, employ or marry as adults. It seems we are hardwired to seek out the strong.

None of this is a problem, provided you are one of the strong. When you are picking the team, hiring the worker or walking down the aisle, a world that rewards strength works.

Unfortunately none of us are as strong as we pretend to be. Even those “at the top of the pile” feel the pressure of trying to stay there. If we could find the courage to be honest, both the accepted and the rejected would share stories of pain, loneliness, anxiety and failure.

I have come to believe that strength (the kind that depends on us) does not exist. It is an illusion we desperately struggle to maintain.

But God is not buying it.

 In Matthew 1:1-17 we find Jesus’ family tree. Far from the prestigious achievers we would expect, we find an extensive list of failures and dropouts, everything from cowardly patriarchs and deceptive siblings to adulterous, murdering kings.

Search the pages of scripture and you will find a God who relentlessly seeks out the weak. This is not because God favors the weak but rather because He knows what we refuse to see.

Weak is all there is.

This is wonderful news for those of us who choose to believe it. In every miraculous work of God we find weak men and women made strong by a mighty creator.

It was God who turned Abraham into a nation builder, Moses into a liberator, David into a giant slayer, Esther into a freedom fighter, Peter into a movement maker and Paul into church planter. It is God who refuses to count us out because He knows that His strength is made perfect in our weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9).

As we move into 2015 let this truth convince you of two things. 

  • You are never too weak, broken, bad or beaten to know God and make Him known.
  • Neither is anyone else.

Much Love
Matt