Feb 20 2017

God’s Unconditional Love

Last week, I mentioned that, from the example of Jacob, I have noticed how I tend to make conditions with God, in my walk with Him. But on the other side, God doesn’t make conditional promises upon us, in order to receive salvation.

In Genesis 15 we see God forming a covenant with Abraham.


After these things the word of the Lord came to Abram in a vision: “Fear not, Abram, I am your shield; your reward shall be very great.” But Abram said, “O Lord God, what will you give me, for I continue[a] childless, and the heir of my house is Eliezer of Damascus?” And Abram said, “Behold, you have given me no offspring, and a member of my household will be my heir.” And behold, the word of the Lord came to him: “This man shall not be your heir; your very own son[b] shall be your heir.” And he brought him outside and said, “Look toward heaven, and number the stars, if you are able to number them.” Then he said to him, “So shall your offspring be.” And he believed the Lord, and he counted it to him as righteousness.

And he said to him, “I am the Lord who brought you out from Ur of the Chaldeans to give you this land to possess.” But he said, “O Lord God, how am I to know that I shall possess it?” He said to him, “Bring me a heifer three years old, a female goat three years old, a ram three years old, a turtledove, and a young pigeon.” And he brought him all these, cut them in half, and laid each half over against the other. But he did not cut the birds in half. And when birds of prey came down on the carcasses, Abram drove them away.

As the sun was going down, a deep sleep fell on Abram. And behold, dreadful and great darkness fell upon him. Then the Lord said to Abram, “Know for certain that your offspring will be sojourners in a land that is not theirs and will be servants there, and they will be afflicted for four hundred years. But I will bring judgment on the nation that they serve, and afterward they shall come out with great possessions. As for you, you shall go to your fathers in peace; you shall be buried in a good old age. And they shall come back here in the fourth generation, for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet complete.”
When the sun had gone down and it was dark, behold, a smoking fire pot and a flaming torch passed between these pieces. On that day the Lord made a covenant with Abram, saying, “To your offspring I give[c] this land, from the river of Egypt to the great river, the river Euphrates, the land of the Kenites, the Kenizzites, the Kadmonites, the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Rephaim, the Amorites, the Canaanites, the Girgashites and the Jebusites.”

I don’t know about you, but many times when reading this story, I find it very strange that Abraham takes animals, and cuts them in halves, when preparing to form this covenant with God, that is until, I understood, that in Abraham’s time, it was common, when forming a covenant between two equal parties, to take a set of animals, slice them in two, and then both parties would walk between the halves. The understanding being, if you fail to meet your side of the covenant, then what has been done to these animals will be done to you.
However, in the case of God, God waits until Abraham falls asleep, and then God himself walks between the animal halves, thus saying to Abraham, I know you won’t be able to keep your end of the bargain, but I will. God in his grace, knows that Abraham, and his descendants will not keep their end of the bargain, but God will keep his promise. We see this idea throughout the whole of the Bible. Even though the descendants of Abraham did not live perfect lives, and often lived in such a way as to bring about God’s judgement upon them, God still brought His Son through the line of Abraham.

So it is with us, God, saved us when we were completely dead in our sin, and had no understanding of who He was, and had no desire to follow Him. And yet, he sent His own Son, down to earth to become a man, and to die as a sacrifice for our sin. Paul even states in Romans 5, that Christ died for us, while we were still His enemies.

Now this idea of the unconditional love of God, is not meant to be a license to say, well I’m saved now, I can do whatever I want. But rather it is a freeing from the burden of religion. Now, we obey God out of love for Him, not because we are trying to earn His love, because we already know that He loves us!

I hope that this is encouraging for you, and removes some of the burden of trying to please God, and instead rest in the knowledge that God is already pleased with you, and that our hope is not in ourselves, and hoping we can keep our end of the bargain, but instead our hope is in God, and knowing that He always keeps his promises.


Feb 13 2017

Is My Love of God Conditional?

For several months, I have been thinking over this question. The origin for my question comes from Genesis 28, and the story of Jacob dream of a ladder going up into Heaven. As a child, the focus was always on the dream of Jacob, seeing Angles ascending into heaven on a ladder, and not the response of Jacob, that we see later.

In Genesis 28:20-22, we see Jacob make a conditional vow with God. “ Then Jacob made a vow, saying, “If God will be with me and will keep me in this way that I go, and will give me bread to eat and clothing to wear, so that I come again to my father’s house in peace, then the Lord shall be my God, and this stone, which I have set up for a pillar, shall be God’s house. And of all that you give me I will give a full tenth to you.”

A couple of months ago, for the first time, it really stuck out to me, that Jacob says to God, IF you do these things for me, THEN, you shall be my God. I don’t know about you, but these conditions that Jacob places on God, really convicted me. I realized that in so many areas of my own life, I also make conditions on God, for my relationship with Him.

My second Year in Austria, I was faced with the decision to say, either, yes, I am committing myself to working with TWR on a long term basis, or to decide to return to the US, and pursue a different career path. After many months of attempting to bargain with God, I was faced with the decision, do I really truly believe that God is good, and that He knows my every need, or do I believe that He is withholding things from me, and if I just place my status as a missionary on the bargaining table, He might then decide, oh guess I better cave in to some of Matt’s demands, if I want Him to stay in Austria. Looking back on this time, I am so thankful for God’s patience, that He was very gracious with me, and continued to remind me of all of the ways that He had been continually taking care of me, and blessing me, even when I didn’t even realize it.
I know that in my life I still have areas where I try and place conditions on my obedience to God, and still have areas in my life where I don’t fully trust God to really provide, and think, well I better have my backup plan in case God doesn’t really come through for me. But I also know, how beneficial it has been to be able to see conditions that I am placing on God, and bring them to Him, and submit those conditions to Him as well. And I am so thankful, that God is continuing to reveal to me, how good He really is!


Mar 6 2016

A Time For Reflection

As it has been almost a year since my last update, this one is quite long…

As I look back over the years of my life, I am reminded of God’s continued faithfulness to me. I have been blessed with so many experiences, good friends, and love from God. Just 5 years ago, if you were to tell me that in the next five years, I would live in West Africa, and then Europe, I would’ve told you, you’re nuts, I’m not going anywhere, other than possibly Colorado. But, thankfully God had other plans for my life.

One of the best experiences was my time in Denver. Since I can remember, I always wanted to live in Denver. In 2008, I had the opportunity to live and work in Denver for 6 moths. During this time, God provided me with some amazing friends, and a great church that really helped to provide an atmosphere of growth. I also got to hike to the top of several different mountain peaks in the Rockies. That experience was such a great reminder of how awesome and powerful is our God, and how much he must love us, to have created such a wonderful world for us to take care of.

The second major life experience was my time in West Africa. I still credit this time to opening my eyes to seeing that an Electrical Engineer can help reach other people with the gospel. I had always believed to be a missionary, you need to go to seminary, be a really good public speaker, and plant lots of churches. None of which, I am very good at. It was the opportunity to serve with TWR as a summer missionary, that really opened my eyes to how powerful media really can be for the gospel. I still can hardly believe how God prepared every step of the way, even having another family there from New Mexico!

The third, and probably biggest life experience has been moving to and now living in Vienna Austria. I have been able to experience time hiking in the Alps, and really spending time alone with God. I don’t know what it is about mountains that does it for me, but it often feels that I am closest to God, when I am able to get away from the business of the city life, and spend time in nature, just in awe of how awesome our God really is. I also am continually humbled at how God can take a shy, introverted nerd, who doesn’t really like being the center of attention and use me for something greater. It reminds me of 2 Cor 12: 9 “But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” I also have been blessed with a wonderful church family, and some really good friends. I am also very thankful for the opportunity to lead a Bible study at Starbucks.

Now to some people who I would really like to thank for being such a great influence on my life, many of whom I hope to be like as I continue on life’s journey.

First and foremost, I really am so thankful for my closest friend Andre, who was born two weeks before me. I still remember coming over on weekends, and playing with Batman and with legos. Thanks so much for being my friend and putting up with my craziness for all of these 30 years!

I also would like to thank Nate, Chris and Josh for your friendship.
It’s crazy to think Nate, that you are now a dad, and I really look forward to seeing your little guy! I continue to hope and pray that God will help you in being a great husband and father.
Chris, again I am thankful for many of the times we have been able to sit down together and talk about life, to talk about our struggles, and also our joys, thank you for being such a good and faithful friend.
Josh, thanks for talking about computers and just being your self, it’s always good to be around others, and know that you can be weird, and they will still be your friend 😉

I would also like to thank Caleb, Nick, Jason and Shane. Caleb, I always liked knowing that you and I could talk about technology, but also have good talks about theology, and music. My mom still blames you for converting me to rock music :p

Nick, man, what is there to say…. I’m so thankful, that you have allowed me to be, well, crazy… I still remember our crazy senior skip day, running around during the middle of the night, flipping a tent over, jumping off of swings, and then going to Andre’s house begging him to let us in to play some Xbox, and finally passing out in his back yard. Been some really great times. Thanks for being a great friend, and encouraging me.

Jason, man am I itching to go mountain biking with you again! Thanks for having such a great imagination, running through the sand dunes, building forts, and of course helping me to learn how to mountain bike. I still think we need to try and plan a “bikepacking” trip.

Shane, I am so thankful for all of the times we would talk together about John Macarthur. Thank you for helping to keep me sane, and allowing me to come over and talk during one of my hardest times in life, I still hope to one day visit you in Alaska.

There are so many people from church in Las Cruces that have been an inspiration for how to live out what it really means to follow Christ and to fight the good fight. I would like to thank John Gwin for all of the years of teaching Sunday School, and for your great sense of humor. I also would like to thank Mr. Danhauer. for just being such a testimony of God’s work in your life, I really hope that when I get older, I am able to be as positive as you have been. Thank you also to Pastor Gordon, especially for mentoring me as I was getting ready to come to Austria, I really, really, really appreciated the time with you! I would also like to thank Pastor John for all the years of faithful teaching, and for encouraging me to take this step, working as an Electrical Engineer in the mission field.

I also would like to thank my newest friend here in Austria, Clemens. Clemens, I am thankful for being someone that I can have both serious conversations with about faith and life, but also goofy conversations, about random things. Thanks for being my friend!

There are so many more names that continue to come to mind, but I think I’m running out of words…. I would also like to thank Garth and Fiona, and Paul and Donna for accepting me and encouraging me, as I began this crazy life change of life outside of New Mexico. Thanks to my friends in Colorado, Will, Tivon, and Wayne, you guys are great! Thanks also to Nathan, the other Nick, all of the great people at Calvary Chapel in Vienna, and so many other friends that I can’t think of right now. What can I say, my mind doesn’t work as well as it used to 😉

Finally, I really have to thank my family. I don’t really think God could’ve done a better job providing the right people to be my family.

Thanks mom and dad for all of the years of care and love that you have provided for me, even when I didn’t respect it. I am also so thankful for my brothers, Ben and Tim. Ben, I can’t believe you’re going to be getting married in a few months! I’m so proud of you, and look forward to being there. I also am thankful that we got to finally play on the same baseball team my last year, finally, after all of the years of playing wiffle ball in the back yard, we got to play on the same team.

Tim, thanks for being, well, sometimes a lot like me :P…. I’m really glad, that as we’ve gotten older, we have been able to get along much better. I’m really proud of you, and am really glad we got to meet in Finland. Thanks for going with me to the top of Mt Bierstadt with me.

Finally in the words of Project 86, “We’ve come too far Too far to turn back”


Apr 17 2015

Learning from the Story of Jonah

It has been quite some time since I last updated my blog. A lot has been going on in life here in Austria, and I wanted to share some recent thoughts with you.

A month or so ago, I received news from my mom, that Tesla, our families dog had to be put to sleep. Initially I was a bit disappointed to hear this news, but it didn’t really sink in until a few days later. I remember praying one morning, and just really venting my frustration at God. Second only to seeing my friends and family again, was the desire to see my puppy again.
I would often think about how it would be coming home, and seeing him there greeting me at the door, and taking him for a jog again.
As I was venting at God, I was reminded of a story of the prophet of Jonah.

Jonah 4:5-11 “5 Jonah went out of the city and sat to the east of the city and made a booth for himself there. He sat under it in the shade, till he should see what would become of the city. 6 Now the Lord God appointed a plant and made it come up over Jonah, that it might be a shade over his head, to save him from his discomfort. So Jonah was exceedingly glad because of the plant. 7 But when dawn came up the next day, God appointed a worm that attacked the plant, so that it withered. 8 When the sun rose, God appointed a scorching east wind, and the sun beat down on the head of Jonah so that he was faint. And he asked that he might die and said, “It is better for me to die than to live.” 9 But God said to Jonah, “Do you do well to be angry for the plant?” And he said, “Yes, I do well to be angry, angry enough to die.” 10 And the Lord said, “You pity the plant, for which you did not labor, nor did you make it grow, which came into being in a night and perished in a night. 11 And should not I pity Nineveh, that great city, in which there are more than 120,000 persons who do not know their right hand from their left, and also much cattle?””

What really struck me about this story is God’s response to Jonah, “You pity the plant, for which you did not labor, nor did you make it grow, which came into being in a night and perished in a night.” It was then that I realized, yes, I spent time training our dog, and taking him with me jogging, but it was really God, who allowed us to have this puppy. The evening when we got our puppy, he was very sick, and we weren’t sure if he would survive. But after a week of taking him to the shelter every night for treatment, he survived and we were able to enjoy having him for a couple of years.
The main lesson that I believe God wanted to teach me was to be thankful for the gifts that He gives, and to enjoy them while we can.
So, now I can say, I am thankful for the time I was able to spend with our dog, and am thankful that we were able to have him for as long as we did.

Thank you again for all of your prayers and support

Matt


Sep 25 2014

Grieving from Abroad

Hello everyone,

It has been quite some time since I have updated my blog. About a week and a half ago, I heard the news that my grandfather had passed away. I made the decision not to attend the funeral, but instead wrote a letter to my grandpa. It has been a bit difficult at times, and have been spending a lot of time praying, and learning how to grieve while overseas. It has been a challenge, but I know that God is with me here in Austria. I am also very thankful that I was able to enjoy so many years with my grandpa.

Here is the letter that I wrote for the funeral.

Dear Grandpa Giles,

I never have been very good at saying goodbye. It’s hard to believe that the next time I come to the US you won’t be there. I know that now you are in a better place and are spending time with Jesus, please tell Him hello for me.

I will always remember how as a boy I always looked forward to going to Grandpa’s house, knowing that we would be playing games, and going for long walks together. I always enjoyed your sense of curiosity. Mom often says that I am just like you finding random facts and sharing them with everyone. I still remember when you bought a belt buckle with a large “G” printed on it. We would always play with the buckle turning the “G” sideways or upside down, but then one summer you came and told us, “Well now I’ve fixed my buckle so you won’t be able to play with it anymore.” I know you always secretly enjoyed how we would tease you and laugh with you about your goofy ties.

Thank you for teaching us important things, like how to flatten pennies on the train tracks, and how to make interesting meals like milk toast and crackers and milk, and of course your personal favorite Oyster Stew.

Grandpa, I hope you know how much I loved you. Like you I have often struggled with being able to forgive myself, but I know that God forgives me, even when I can’t forgive myself.

But my favorite memory of all, was to hear how proud you were when you heard I would be working with TWR in Austria. It really moved me to tears when I heard that you and grandma were always asking everyone to pray for me, and telling everyone how your grandson was working as a missionary oversees.

I am so thankful to God for letting me get to spend so much time with you. It seems like we never really know how blessed we are, until God takes it away.

With all of that said, it is time to say goodbye for now. Make sure you get some games ready for us to play when we join you again, and try and find some good hiking trails too. In this case I prefer the German version of goodbye, Auf Wiedersehen, or until I see you again.

Thank you again for all of your prayers. Your prayers and support are very much appreciated.

James 1:2-4

“Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.”


May 6 2014

God has not given us a spirit of fear

Hello again,

I would like to share with you something that God has really been working on with me, over the past couple of weeks.

So often, one of the last words that I would use to describe myself is courageous. Often, I view myself as cowardly, and afraid to step out in faith. However today, I found a paper that someone had given me a while back, with a list of verses describing our identity in Christ.

The verse that really stuck out to me is 2 Timothy 1:7 “for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.” The following verse says, “Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord, nor of me his prisoner, but share in suffering for the gospel by the power of God.”

Now if I am honest, this is something that I really struggle to truly believe. So often, I am easily intimidated by others, and do not see myself as a bold person. But yet, Paul is telling Timothy, God gives us a spirit of power, and not of fear.

The scripture is full of examples of God giving courage to those who are willing to follow Him. Here are a couple of examples.

2 Chronicles 15:7-8
“But you, take courage! Do not let your hands be weak, for your work shall be rewarded.”
As soon as Asa heard these words, the prophecy of Azariah the son of Oded, he took courage and put away the detestable idols from all the land of Judah and Benjamin and from the cities that he had taken in the hill country of Ephraim, and he repaired the altar of the Lord that was in front of the vestibule of the house of the Lord.”

Psalm 27:14 “Wait for the Lord;
be strong, and let your heart take courage;
wait for the Lord!”

Daniel 10:19 “And he said, “O man greatly loved, fear not, peace be with you; be strong and of good courage.” And as he spoke to me, I was strengthened and said, “Let my lord speak, for you have strengthened me.””

Philippians 1:20 “as it is my eager expectation and hope that I will not be at all ashamed, but that with full courage now as always Christ will be honored in my body, whether by life or by death.”

Now, I know, in my head, that God has given me courage, and that He has promised to never leave me. But often there is a disconnect between what I know in my head, and what I feel in my heart. I want to know in both my head and heart that God has made me to be courageous, and to take steps of faith following the example of Christ.

I would appreciate your prayers, that God would transform me, so that I would not believe the lie, that I am a coward.

Thank you,
Matt


Apr 29 2014

What a Privilege and a Blessing

Hello again,

 

Today as I was walking outside, I just felt a sense of peace about where God has placed me at this time. Yes, at times I have really missed my family and friends, and I do miss green chili and good Mexican food, and the amazing view of the Organs. But I am so blessed to be in Vienna Austria.

I never could have imagined the opportunity that I have right now, to learn German, a language, that I have wanted to learn since I was a kid, and I get to do a job, working with computers that I really enjoy. And if that isn’t enough, I get to be a part in helping to spread the gospel through technology.

I also had the privilege of traveling to Central Asia to help with getting one of our new transmitters up and running. That still has to be one of the coolest experiences yet. I really learned a lot about trusting in God, and having faith that God will provide. I really was humbled by the amount of faith some of my coworkers have had about this entire project. Every time something bad would happen, they saw it as an opportunity to trust God to provide, and were confident that He would do so. I on the other hand was very pessimistic and doubted that God could really do it. (Looking back now, this seems so silly, God is so much bigger than all of our problems.)

Thank you again to all of you for all of your prayers, and encouragement. It really means a lot to me. Please pray that I would learn to grow in my faith, and that instead of seeing problems that are too impossible for God to solve, would go to my knees instead.

Thank you,

Matt

 

 


Apr 11 2014

Taking Time to Be Still

Hello again,

This week as I was reading through a short devotional, I came across the following passage:

1 Kings 19:11 – 13 ”
And he said, “Go out and stand on the mount before the Lord.” And behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind tore the mountains and broke in pieces the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. And after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. And after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire the sound of a low whisper. And when Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his cloak and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave. And behold, there came a voice to him and said, “What are you doing here, Elijah?””

For some reason, this story has always been encouraging to me. We see Elijah who has just come from a great victory against the prophets of Baal. He has just shown to all of Israel, that Jahweh alone is the one true God. But, Elijah receives a letter from Jezebel, king Ahab’s wife, that she wants to kill him. This causes Elijah to fall into a state of depression. Even this great prophet, has a bout of depression. What comes next, is very comforting.

God sends Elijah an angel to comfort, and encourage Elijah, and to allow him to rest. It is here that we find Elijah in a cave. Discouraged and feeling very alone. Here in this cave God comes to him, and tells him to go out and He will appear to him. Now what comes next is worth noting. Elijah hears a great wind, so great that the rocks are broken to pieces, but God is not in the wind. An earthquake comes, but God is not in the earthquake. A fire comes next, but God is not in the fire. Finally a sound like a low wisper comes. At this sound, we are told Elijah recognizes that this is the Lord, and exits the cave.

I really like this picture, because I often expect God to come in a mighty and powerful way, but often God comes quietly. It is only when I allow myself to be still, and listen that I can hear His voice. So often, I get distracted by noise, both audibly, but also with things, that I don’t hear God’s voice, and then I wonder where He is. It is only when I am still and calm that I then hear his voice.

This week, it has been a struggle for me to remain still, and to trust God. Often when I am seeking to spend time with Him, my mind wanders away. I also often allow fear and doubt to creep in, and I find myself struggling to rest in His presence. This week in particular, I have really struggled to give up my worries, and doubts to God, and to allow Him to take care of them. I am comforted to know however, that God is still there, and He is patiently waiting for me to rest in Him, and to listen to His voice.

I would really appreciate your prayers this week, that I would just rest in God. That I would cast my worries, and fears onto Him, and trust that He will take care of me.

Thank you for all of your prayers and support. It means a lot to know that so many of you are praying for me.
Matt


Apr 8 2014

A Long Overdue Update

 

It has been quite some time since my last update here. I have been quite busy over the past couple of months.

The end of February I was privileged to travel to Barcelona Spain to attend the Mobile World Congress. There I was able to see a lot of the latest technology gadgets having to do with cell phones, and other forms of mobile technology. It also provided me with the chance to “translate” technical terms into language that someone who is not technical would be able to understand.

After returning from Barcelona, I was able to take a week off of work, and travel to Switzerland and Germany for my birthday. I really enjoyed seeing all of the mountains along the way to Switzerland. The first night of my journey, I had the opportunity to stay with a German family in a little village just over the border from Switzerland. It was quite an interesting experience. For my birthday I spent the day exploring the city of Zürich. Unfortunately I was sick for a good portion of my vacation, but I still was able to enjoy it.

At work, I have been spending quite a bit of time learning different types of programming techniques, and how to better analyze and design software. Often, I have to remind myself that I am still new at this, and should not expect myself to be perfect at this… (Hopefully one day I will learn this lesson)

Recently I volunteered to help with leading a Bible study in one of the Starbucks locations in Vienna. I am excited, but also a bit nervous, as I have not really done something like this before.

Well, I hope to update my blog more often again, to keep you up to date with what is happening here in Vienna.

Thank you again for all of your prayers!

Matt

 


Feb 15 2014

Some Quick Thoughts

Hello again,

This morning as I was reading through the book of Exodus, I noticed something that caught my attention. In describing the clothing that the priests were required to wear I cam across this verse, Exodus 39:30, “They made the plate of the holy crown of pure gold, and wrote on it an inscription, like the engraving of a signet, “Holy to the LORD.” This got me thinking. We as believers may not be wearing a crown of gold on our heads that says Holy to the Lord, but because of the sacrifice of Christ we are declared Holy to the Lord.

I know for myself, one of the last things that I would describe myself as is holy. There are so many times that I stumble and fall and realize how much I need a savior. I looked at the definition of the word holy in Websters dictionary: “devoted entirely to the deity or the work of the deity.” Now is this not true, that as believers our lives should be lived in a way that meets this definition.

I encourage you, and myself to remember this thought, that we are set apart by God to work for Him. I have to constantly remind myself that my boss is not a man, but is God. I continue to pray that God would work in me, that when I have to give an account to Him that I will hear, ‘Well done my good and faithful servant.’

I would appreciate your prayers that God would continue to work in my life and clean out the rotten fruit from within my life, and that I would not get distracted from the true goal of serving Him.

Thank you,

Matt


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