Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Joseph's Story

So recently I've been learning a lot about Joseph's story in the Bible and how it correlates to my own story.  Genesis is the first book of the Bible so obviously a lot happens there: Creation (a pretty big deal), the Flood, the Tower of Babel, Abraham's story, Isaac's story, and Jacob's story just name a few of the biggies.  Yet interestingly the story that gets the most dedicated chapters is the story of Joseph.  From his days wearing a coat of many colors to his days of sitting high in the land of Egypt, the writer of Genesis lays out the ways in which God shapes and uses this man as a Kingdom representative - and I'm learning a lot about what all of that means for me.

Dreams are an important component in Joseph's story.  The most vital learnings for me have been in the three dream accounts.  In the beginning, he's dreaming that he is the center of the universe - a very important person to whom others (including his family members) bow.  Second, after he finds himself in prison after being wrongfully accused, Joseph says that he can interpret dreams with the help of God.  Finally, when he is called before Pharaoh to interpret his dreams, Joseph acknowledges that only God can interpret dreams.  [This is obviously a pitiful Cliff notes version of the Joseph story - you'd need to read Genesis chapter 37 and then chapters 39-50.]

At 17, Joseph alone is at the center.
“Listen to this dream I had: 7 We were binding sheaves of grain out in the field when suddenly my sheaf rose and stood upright, while your sheaves gathered around mine and bowed down to it.” 

Years later (perhaps late 20s), Joseph has allowed God to occupy the center of universe with him - how kind, generous, and thoughtful of him.
Then Joseph said to them, “Do not interpretations belong to God? Tell me your dreams.”  

Then 2 years later, Joseph finally allows God alone to stand at the center of the universe and acknowledges his own place as a servant of the King.
But I have heard it said of you that when you hear a dream you can interpret it.”
 16 “I cannot do it,” Joseph replied to Pharaoh, “but God will give Pharaoh the answer he desires.” 

Joseph's story is the tale of learning humility.  Joseph's dream of people bowing down to him did indeed come true but it was only after Joseph learned that it isn't all about him.  Joseph was representing the True King and to do that he had to learn who alone was to be the Center.

I still too often find myself at a similar place of trying to edge my way into the center of my world rather than submitting that place completely and solely to Jesus.  There is no fruit apart from living by faith in Him but I catch myself over-functioning and trying to do God's part way too often.  I learning new ways to make God the center - new ways to die to self so that resurrection life can spring forth within me and the Kingdom can break into my life.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Update on Mom's House

In May of this year my mom lost her house and most of her belongings to the floods in Tennessee (see the related post just few below this one).  Since then, my brother and sister-in-law have helped her purchase and renovate a foreclosed home that is immediately next door to them.  This house was abandoned and nasty.  It looked like something from an episode of Hoarders.  My family hauled away something like 20 loads of trash on a 16-foot trailer.

The pictures below show a different story now.  The renovations that were to be completed by contractors concluded a little over a week ago.  That's good news but that also means that the remainder of the work will be done by family members...and probably at a much slower pace.

Clayton Hershner (Children's Minister here at Parkside) and I were able to go down this past weekend and help out a little bit.  We installed light fixtures and ceiling fans throughout the house and prepared the rooms for baseboards.  My family will be installing flooring and painting with hopes that mom can be moved in and settled by Thanksgiving.  That sounds like a long way off but it really isn't when you consider that the work is now being completed at the convenience of people who have full-time jobs.  I know mom is excited and can't wait.  And I know that they're all ready for a break.

Thanks to all of you who continue to ask about her, pray for her, and for those of you who've helped in very practical ways.  Thanks to the Henize and Harshfield families for their donated furniture, too.  God and His Family have been faithful and mom is continually being blessed by generosity and concern.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

The Crowds

As I read Mark 4 today, I noticed again a theme that God seems to be impressing deeply on me these days.  Here is another example of how Jesus addresses the crowds but then turns to the disciples to debrief the situation and go deeper into life-change in a more intimate, personal setting.  Jesus provides a long discourse on the parable of the sower (and other parables) to the crowds that listened.  But He provides an explanation to those guys who were walking with Him...those who gave Him access and to whom He had greater proximity.

It occurred to me today that I've often viewed His teachings to the crowds and His teachings to the disciples on the same or, at least, similar levels.  But I don't believe that they are.  Jesus can often be found teaching the crowd and then turning to the disciples in a way that suggests, "Okay, now that you've heard me say these things, let's talk about you and me for a little bit."  I'm not suggesting that Jesus didn't love the crowds - He obviously loved them very much - but I am suggesting that Jesus' most important work happened with the disciples, not the crowds.  And here was today's learning for me: I need to be paying more attention to what Jesus says to and how He interacts with the disciples rather than the crowd.

Much can be learned by dissecting what Jesus says to the crowd but much more can be gleaned by soaking up how Jesus interacts with the disciples.  We are, after all, called to be and to make disciples rather than be or make a crowd.

In fact, if Jesus' words and interactions with the crowds were of primary importance, I believe that the New Testament would read very differently.  It would be a collection of sermons.  The disciples would be mysteriously missing altogether with the vast majority of the context of Jesus' interactions and guidance missing with them.  But they are not missing: Jesus' work with the disciples - shaping them into the very guys who will usher in a movement of disciple-making and, when combined, the church - drips from most chapters of the Gospels.

Jesus loved and taught the crowds.  But He focused on bringing life-change, identity, authority, and purpose to His disciples.  You are called to be a disciple who makes other disciples.  So join me in reading more about how Jesus would interact with you after the crowds have been taught and have left (that is what crowds do, after all...ask Jesus).

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Lather, Rinse, Repeat

I've received a few messages or had a few conversations each day this week with people who've taken Sunday's challenge.  Some have sent the directions from the back of their shampoo bottles (some of which are pretty funny).  Some have talked about the condition of their hair.  I even received an article from the Wall Street Journal about shampoo.

This past Sunday's challenge was to shampoo twice each day this week (as instructed by the general "lather, rinse, repeat" on the back of shampoo bottles) as a way to remind us of the Discipline of Repetition.  Our transformation into people who more clearly represent our Father happens as a life-long process.  We need to keep going and we need the power of community.  Shampooing the second time each day will help remind us to keep going in our journey.  And using both hands to lather and rinse will help remind us that we cannot do this alone.

Again, there will be no magic in your hygiene practices this week...but you never know what God will use to reveal Himself to you.  From the sounds of conversations so far with people this simple, daily reminder is helping them with the Discipline of Repetition.  May God reveal Himself to us more and more each and every day - whatever that takes.  Lather, rinse, and repeat.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

6 Months Ago

Today our youngest daughter turned 6 months old.  It's unbelievable how quickly the time goes by.  [I'm sure that many of you further down the path of parenthood can attest to that truth even more than I can imagine.]  Everyone gives advice about how we should cherish each day - and we do - but cherishing in no way slows down how quickly it passes.

In a related issue, our oldest daughters are almost three and yesterday Jen wanted to say something to me about them in front of them and she said, "We'll have to talk about that a little later."  It was weird for me to hear that because of what it signified.  What she said was true and the girls do understand conversations that are held in their presence.  It was timely in that it was another reminder that our girls are growing up very quickly.

I'm not wanting to delay the maturity of our girls or always keep them young...that would selfishly unfair of me.  I'm wanting to see them develop into the young women that God already knows.  I just want to be able to appreciate as much as I can along the way.  Six months ago seems just like yesterday.

Tennessee Flooding

Many of you have asked me recently how my mom has been doing since she lost her home in the Tennessee floods.  Thanks for your concern and your continued prayers.

At this point mom is doing very well.  She is living with my brother and sister-in-law and we're working on what the long-term, permanent solution will be for her.  It'll be another house at some point but we're working on what that will be.

Mom lost just about everything in the flood.  She was able to protect (and salvage) some pictures and other items of special significance.  She was also able to get almost all of her clothing and a decent amount of kitchen stuff.  Practically all of her appliances and furnishings were destroyed.  What we were able to save is now in storage with other family members.

Mom is thankful for what she does have and is thankful for life (other people in our hometown were not so fortunate).  With that as a backdrop, she is pushing through with a grateful and even anticipatory spirit.  We'll see what the next chapter brings.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010


Sometimes I wonder about the rhythm that I keep.  It seems very different than what it used to be as I was growing up.  At that time it seemed that my entire family and I had more of a daily rhythm.  Perhaps it was because we lived in a very small, rural town.  Perhaps it was just a simpler time.  But it seemed that we counted by days when I was growing up and things were scheduled by the day.

Now it seems that my entire family and I have more of a weekly rhythm.  Perhaps it is because we live in a large, suburban area.  Perhaps it is just a more complex time.  But it seems that we count now by the week and have to schedule things in a seven day block because the individual days in that block simply don't have enough combined hours.

You would rightly argue that God is the one who designed the weekly rhythm.  But it seems that He created the entire world in six days and then spent a day in rest.  I usually get through six days, let stuff spill over into the seventh and then move on to the eighth and following days without much of breath.  That was not God's design.

One of our Next Steps this past weekend was to plan a "Matthew Party" to which you would invite people to your house this week for a party.  I thought, "That won't fit into this week...or next...how about 3 1/2 weeks from now...does that work?"  That's the part that I don't remember from my years growing up.  If you had told me that we were going to do something 4 weeks from today as a kid, it would have simply felt like forever.  Now I wonder if there is enough time in 4 weeks to make it work.

So maybe my rhythm is just off.  Maybe my family is busier than yours...but I really don't think so.  I think I've missed an important element in rest and recognizing today for what it is.

I don't have a neat way to tie this post up with a bow.  I'm just praying that God will show me His Rhythm.  I don't want to miss the melody of life in Him simply because I can't keep tempo.  God's movement is a movement you don't rush.

Hebrews 3:13 - But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin's deceitfulness.