Thoughts from one of my Father’s sons

So…

On June 9, I start a two-week intensive session of seminary classes. I am taking “Christian Perspectives on Contemporary Culture” and “Global Issues in Evangelism”. I am so excited to begin, but I am also very nervous. I haven’t really been a student since I graduated from College 11 years ago (some might argue, not even then!). I was accepted to the program the day after registration for summer classes closed. I had to pettition the seminary to be able to register for classes and then, I come to find out that there are five books for each class that I have to read before classes start. UGH! I mean, I’m a good reader and all. In fact, when I moved to Phoenix in high school I enrolled in Mr. Arthur’s AP English class and discovered I had to have read The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn before school started. I ended up reading it on Sunday before school started on Monday. The whole book in one day! Anyway… you might guess that procrastination is a major struggle in my life, and you’d be right. Pray for me!

Last night at the Stirring, my brother Derrick spoke about, among other things,the faithfullness of God. I’m sure you have all heard the platitude that goes, “If God can get you to it, God can get you through it”. I hate trite, Christian phrases like that. In fact, I even have trouble with a couple of verses from scripture because people quote them like they are trite, little, Christian phrases. Romans 8:28 is the scripture version of the platitude I gave above. It reads, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” I have heard that verse quoted at me and at people I know and love my whole life. If someone gets fired or divorced or dies, you can bet some well-meaning Christian is there with Romans 8:28. It really pisses me off…

But you know what? It’s true. And it’s a very powerful statement. Read it again with my notes added:

“In all things (good and bad) God works (God is active, not passive!) for the good (the ultimate good, that only God can know) of those who love Him (something we can only do because He allows us to and gives us the ability to do), who have been called (chosen) according to His purpose (so much greater than my purpose).”

That is truly amazing stuff. Derrick said that the God who is faithful to call us out of the darkness and anonymity of our lives and into the light and son-ship of the life He wants for us, will be faithful to support us and love us and save us and strengthen us. There is an old praise chorus that is based on my theme verse (Phil. 1:6) and it goes like this”

“He who began a good work in you/ He who began a good work in you/ Will be faithful to complete it/ Will be faithful to complete it/ He who started a work will be faithful to complete it in you”

It is my prayer dearest brothers and sisters, mothers and fathers, sons and daughters, my sweet family in Christ; that each and every one of you will be strengthened by this word from God, our Father. That you will be encouraged through Christ, our Brother. That you will be sustained by the Holy Spirit, our Mother.

Thanks for stopping by. I love you.

SDG,
Matty

Sen. Edward Kennedy

Here in the Strange Land, we want to send our hearts, thoughts and prayers to Sen. Kennedy and his friends and family. So many tragedies have hit the Kennedy clan over the years, yet they have stood up for the poor, the oppressed and the down-trodden with courage and honor.

Dear Father in Heaven, be with the Kennedy family as they deal with the illness of their remaining patriarch, Edward. We pray for recovery and complete healing. Amen.

And, if any of you reading this message have thought that, because Ted is a Liberal and a Democrat, he’s getting what he deserves, I would kindly ask that you never set browser to this blog ever again. I don’t want you as a reader. That goes for any who agree with John McCain’s pastor that Katrina was a curse sent by God to destroy New Orleans. God is love. People are spiteful. Don’t get ’em mixed up!

SDG,
Matty

Blogswarm – March 19th – Five Years of War

ed note: i originally wrote this blog on 2/25/2008 and then updated it on 2/26/08 at 9:30am PST. Scroll down and look for the paragraph marked UPDATE ~MM

I committed to writing a blog post for the March 19th Blogswarm marking the five-year anniversary of the beginning of the “war” in Iraq (see right-hand sidebar, about 1/3 of the way down). As it turns out, I will be freshly moved to Redding, CA on March 19th and am not sure if I will be able to post that day. To that end, I am writing today and will probably change the post timestamp later and make this my March 19th post.

I was/am conflicted about what to write. The folks over at http://march19-blogswarm.blogspot.com/ offer some suggestions on their site:

You are encouraged to write against the war from a variety of perspectives. The war is a huge problem, and that makes it an enormous subject for blogging. Here are some things you might want to consider if you are having difficulty making up your mind:

* Attend an anti-war event and report on it.

* Interview military families and veterans.

* Examine current plans and the rather shadowy oil laws as well as long term military bases.

* Compare and contrast candidates stated intentions on what they claim they will do with their records.

* Publicize online action alerts by pro-peace organizations.

* Discuss the economic impacts of the war on people in Iraq and/or western countries.

* Discuss the casualties on both sides.

* Explore issues and impacts often ignored by most media outlets.

* Analyze war propaganda.

None of these really rang true with me. I am not your typical “anti-war” blogger. I don’t “hate” the war. I don’t “hate” George W. Bush. What I hate is people dying… any people, all people. Death is the enemy. 2 Peter 3:9 says the Lord does not want “anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance”(NIV). War is Death so War is the enemy. This becomes a frustrating concept as you look at the history of war. Can a war be called just that accomplishes good ends? I don’t believe so. I don’t believe, for example, the American Civil War was justified because it freed the black slaves in the southern states. I don’t believe, as another example, the Second World War was justified because it stopped Hitler and the spread of the Third Reich. These things would have been accomplished if men and women of God had prayed without ceasing, as we are commanded to do. Either God is in control or God isn’t. I have heard people argue one minute that we, as Christians and as Americans need to fight back against the terrorists who hate our God and our Country, indicating that God needs our help, that He is not in control. These same people will then say, “God caused the tornadoes to rip through Union College because God’s glory will be made known.” OK, so God needs help fighting terrorists, but He’s in perfect control of tornadoes? This doesn’t make sense. Christ taught us if a man strikes us on one cheek, we are to turn the other to him as well. “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,”(Rom 12:19) says the Lord. Instead of fighting, we Christian men and women AROUND THE WORLD should be praying. Praying for our Muslim brothers and sisters who are being slaughtered by our armies. Praying for our Muslim brothers and sisters who believe that Allah is commanding them to strap bombs to themselves and blow themselves up. Praying for the governmental and religious leaders who are ordering this bloodshed on both sides. Praying for Osama bin Laden, that he will come to a personal relationship with the One True God through the saving blood of our Lord Jesus Christ. My Calvinist brothers will say, “bin Laden isn’t elect, we don’t need to worry about him”. We have ALL sinned and fallen short of God’s perfection (Rom 3:23). We need to pray. Pray constantly. Pray together. Pray alone. We need to pray the prayer Jesus Himself taught us and consider it, don’t just recite it.

Our Father in Heaven, holy and blessed is your Name,
Your Kingdom come to us, Your will be done,
Here on earth just as it is in Heaven.
Provide for our physical needs.
Forgive our sins. Help us to forgive those who sin against us.
Save us from temptation and from the Evil One.
Because yours is all the power and all the glory, for ever and ever,
Amen. ~ Matthew McGraw Paraphrase Version of Luke 11:2-4 aka “The Lord’s Prayer”

As March 19th approaches, spend time in prayer, my brothers and sisters in Christ. If you do not have a personal relationship with God through Christ Jesus, ask questions. Write me. I will be honored to talk with you about my God.

March 19th, in addition to being this horrific anniversary of death, is also my Bug’s birthday. He was born in 2002; one year to the day before this war was “born”. It is because of my Bug that I know there is hope for this world. He is a lover. He cares about people. He is tender. He will be an amazing man. God is so good. God will be faithful in all things.

***UPDATE 2/26/08 @9:30am PST***
Below in the comments, my dear friend Andi expressed some frustration. She wrote:

But the impression I’m getting is that we shouldn’t defend ourselves – we should just lay down and pray. Is that the advice you’d give to a woman who is being abused by a man? You didn’t pray hard enough for it to stop? The Bible says to turn the other cheek….

I want to respond to both of these comments.

Firstly, I want to say that I would never say to any one who was being abused, “well, you just need to pray harder.” Absolutely not! My advice to someone in an abusive situation is this: run, flee, go, get out, leave, remove yourself from the situation. However, my advice would NEVER be to go get a gun or a baseball bat and attack your abuser.

Secondly, I want to say, what we should do as Christians and what we should do as Americans is not the same thing. As a Nation, the United States has the right, duty and privilege to defend itself against all enemies, foreign and domestic. But a Nation is not a Christian. As a Christian, I believe that taking life is wrong; all life, any life. I would never be a part of any armed service because I would be expected to take life. God said, very plainly, “Thou shall not kill”. Period. He didn’t say, “Thou shall not kill unless someone else killed first.” To this end, then, the “war” in Iraq has been deemed vital to the National Interests of the United States of America, but we should never, ever confuse this with it being blessed by God. God is horrified by this war. God is horrified by all war.

This is a difficult issue that we face as American Christians. So many of us were raised to believe that America’s interests are God’s interests and this is blatantly false. How do we reconcile Jesus’ call to be compassionate and to love our enemies with America’s need to protect it’s borders and interests. The answer is… I don’t have the answer. I only echo my above sentiment that we need to P R A Y.
***End of Update***

Grace and Peace to you all today and everyday.

SDG,
Matty

Philippians 1:6 – the next chapter

I want to take a few minutes to update you all on my journey…

God is truly doing a good work in me and in my life! A few things have happened so, here’s a list:

  • My divorce is final.
  • I am a full student working towards a Master’s Degree in Education from Simpson University
  • I am giving 30 days notice on my apartment this Saturday (2/15) and I am giving my two-weeks notice at work the following Wednesday (2/20)
  • I will be moving out of my apartment on my way to Redding, CA on Saturday, March 15th!

So, that’s the big news in my life. I will be living with my folks for the rest of the spring and then will look for a place of my own in early summer. This will be a good time for me to get acclimated to the new town, get school work done, get plugged in at a local church, find work, etc…

I know I am going to miss my son terribly much… but we are already planning when Bug will be able to come to visit this summer! I am hoping to be able to take him to Disneyland at some point over the summer!!!

So, with all this change and upheaval going on, I have a couple of requests to ask of you, my wonderful readers:

  • Pray:
    • that Bug and I will stay close and he will know how much his Daddy loves him
    • that I will find work (with benefits… I won’t survive without health coverage)
    • that Ron and Carolyn and I won’t all drive each other nuts living in the same house
    • that I will rely solely on God for my strength
  • Write:
    • comments on my blog
    • emails
    • anything else you can think of so I don’t feel alone

Also, I want to get a tattoo to commemorate this time of change, growth, rebirth in my life… the end of one chapter and the beginning of the next one… the trouble is, I don’t have any really good ideas. I would love any suggestions you all might have!

So, that’s it for today, dear friends. I look forward to your comments!

SDG,
Matty

Thursday…

I am stagnant… I have nothing to write… It’s hard to believe that after “super” Tuesday, the start of Lent, First Wednesday at church last night and all the stuff that’s going on… I have nothing…

I’m sure I could throw something together, dear readers.  I could ramble on for several paragraphs… but you all deserve better than that.

So, here, on Thursday, I must just say thank-you for stopping by.

Matt

God and the Quarterbacks

I came across this joke earlier today and, with the Super Bowl approaching, I felt it was apropos.

God is sitting with three great Quarterbacks and wants to find out what they believe

God asks Peyton Manning first: “What do you believe?”

Peyton thinks long and hard, looks God in the eye, and says, “I believe in hard work, and in staying true to family and friends. I believe in giving. I was lucky, but I always tried to do right by my fans.”

God can’t help but see the essential goodness of Manning, and offers him a seat to his left.

Then God turns to Tony Romo and says, “What do you believe?” Tony says, “I believe passion, discipline, courage and honor are the fundamentals of life. I, too, have been lucky, but win or lose, I’ve always tried to be a true sportsman, both on and off the playing fields.”

God is greatly moved by Tony’s sincere eloquence and he offers him a seat to his right.

Finally, God turns to Tom Brady: “And you, Tom, what do you believe?”

Tom replies, “I believe you’re in my seat.”

GO GIANTS!!!

SDG,
Matty

Philippians 1:6 – Continues Still

so… that initial “break up” happened at Christmas time in 2004 ( i think). I was becoming more and more miserable and She was acting like nothing was wrong. It must be said, when our son was born, She devoted herself to being his mom…. She just seemed to have forgotten She was also my wife. In the 2+ years that elapsed between our initial “break-up” and our split this last spring (May 2007), our son slept in our bed, in my spot, more than I did.

So… one particularly miserable night when I was wide awake on the couch (insomnia was a side-effect of the bi-polar disorder… or maybe a side-effect of the meds…) I pulled up myspace.. I was probably the last person under 35 in the world to not have a myspace, so I decided to create one. (myspace.com/matty040275, btw) After initially creating my page, I started searching for people. I searched people I had known at Westmont and at SCA and at Heritage Christian. and I FOUND SOME!!! It was truly amazing, to reconnect with people who had been gone from me for so long.

I was feeling so lost and alone and bitter so, I decided to really go all out on my page. I listed myself as an Atheist and joined several online groups dealing with Rationalism and Atheism. I loaded my page with sex jokes and pro-legalization propaganda.

Then Mario emailed me. Mario graduated from SCA a few years ahead of me, before my family moved to AZ. But he had found my page and had seen that I, too, had graduated SCA. Mario is co-founder (along with Bobby Brewer and Stephen Baldwin) of The BreakThrough Ministry (www.globalbtm.org). When he read that I was an atheist, he emailed me and started giving me no end of grief over it… he challenged my faith (or lack thereof) from the very beginning and he has never let up. Today, I count him as an amazing friend, a brother in the LORD, and part of my spiritual ancestry.

Another person who was good to find, was a girl I dated briefly at SCA (i know, Andi, that doesn’t really narrow it down) who I will call “Kim” because, to my knowledge, I never dated anyone named “Kim”… by this I mean, I can use “Kim” and not have it refer to an actual person from my past. -ed. note

Kim had been in some bad relationships and had been married. She has two kids and, when I hooked up with her again, she was in yet another bad relationship. As is so often the case, two people in bad situations see, in each other, the way out, and we soon were talking on the phone/email/IM 3 and 4 hours a night… Did we fall in love? Dunno… we thought we did. We spent some time together; I traveled to where she lived a couple of times and we continued to talk on the phone. It was Kim who really started me to realize a) I had to get out of my marriage and b) I missed my GOD and my relationship to HIM through JESUS… Kim and I “dated” until late this summer when we decided it was better to just be friends. She has since pulled away and I really don’t know what’s happening with her right now. All in all, though, it was a great experience and it taught me a lot about what Love can be and should be, and will be again!