Friday, July 9, 2010


This is a long one, maybe even my longest yet.

I've driven around, flown over, and walked through hundreds of cities and metro areas and I'm always somewhat amazed by the accomplishments of man; the towering buildings, freeways and streets, transportation systems and infrastructures with hundreds of micro economies functioning to prosper the majority. Sometimes it all just seems so ingenious, and it's somewhat smugly reassuring to observe what humanity is capable of. Until I take a step back. From the macro perspective, how fragile is our system! Our global economy is built on a bubble, on debt, on projected profit from that debt. It's an unstable facade, built on nothing ultimately sustainable beyond a hundred years. It's founded on the idea that the current generation is the most important. What we GET is what matters most. The plans that we have made are not plans that will last. They are not plans that will carry us much farther than the scope of our own life-spans. Civilizations greater than ours have arisen and disappeared throughout history, and the plans they made are now seemingly obsolete in the grand scope of things. What makes every generation think it is the most important? Thousands of years ago people much wiser than us implemented their plans with as much foresight as humanly possible, but even then the residual impact is little if any. Our plans are built on temporal knowledge, in the spiritual sense and the timely sense. The foundation for our standard of living is built on sand. Our plans are extremely fragile and near-sighted.

What if there is an Ultimate Plan? A Plan that isn't limited to one person, or one life-span? What if history, ancient and recent, holds proof of that plan unfurling in the macro and the micro sense? I believe in that Plan and Purpose, because I believe in a God who loves and interacts with His creation, but also because I've witnessed His work on the micro level, in my own life, as well as through my parents lives before I was even here.

My parents became Christians in the late 70's. I don't know much about this time in their lives, other than that they were post-hippie travelers who randomly met in Vancouver, BC, thousands of miles from their respective birthplaces (my dad from Halifax, Nova Scotia and my mom from outside of Richmond, VA). While in Vancouver, BC they attended some Gospel meetings and became "born-again" by every sense of the term. Their habits and lifestyles spun a 180 as they implemented their new found moral convictions, got married and started a family. 

According to his testimony my dads conversion was a tedious one, spanning seven years and involving him being tracked down by a preacher who seemed to show up at the most random moments. These random interactions eventually led him to give his life to God. I think my moms conversion was a bit more impulsive. Either way, for several years they maintained a very black and white faith. 

In 1994 we moved across the border to the US. The new church we attended was more concerned with posturing and judgement than community and love, and the culture slowly chipped away at my parents faith. Areas of their lives and marriage were left unattended, exposed, and allowed to fester due to lack of depth, accountability, honesty, and care for the things they once deemed important. Eventually differences could not be reconciled in their relationship and it lead to their separation, subsequent excommunication from their "church," and divorce. Since then their faith has struggled as shame, resentment, regret and bitterness have taken seats at the table while things like grace, mercy, love and forgiveness grow ever-distant.

Of course this is only my take on the matter, and I'll admit that from the outside it's seemingly easy to discern the consequences and their causes; the causes being justifications for stubbornness, revenge, anger and bitterness, and the consequences being detachment, loneliness, lack of peace and loss of faith. Speculation can only add up to so much, however, and the truth is that things are more confusing and messy on the inside. What I do know is that as of right now neither of my parents are actively pursuing any portion of the faith that once changed their lives. My mom used to read the Bible to us every morning at breakfast, but I'm speculating that she probably hasn't opened it in years. One of the most enduring images I have from my childhood is of my dad sitting at his desk, pouring over his bible and studying scripture, but I doubt he has spent any time doing that lately. Needless to say, both of my parents currently seem concerned only with their individual, short-term plans. They've lost their faith in the Ultimate Plan. I'm not blaming them, because they've had a hard go of it, and I'm not confident that I'm exempt from their circumstances. It could happen to the best of us, and so I must tread lightly and remember that "There by the grace of God go I."

In my experience, something happens when you read the Bible. Something rings divinely true within its pages. When read properly, the Bible doesn't encourage your political stance, tease your intellect or simply resonate with the "poet inside." Instead it grabs your heart and squeezes it until the tears flow. The truth about love, forgiveness and sacrifice is simply that; Truth. It just rings true. It speaks to that part of us that longs for ultimate Truth and absolutes. It puts things in perspective and it causes us to live differently, to love better. It calls us to become a part of the plan. When we read the Bible, it puts us on track. I can tell when a Christian has spent time reading it with enthusiasm recently, and I can usually tell when they haven't. My parents, I suspect, haven't. (If I'm honest with myself it's been too long since I've spent significant time studying the Bible and the symptoms of that have been showing. #realtalk)

In an effort to totally redeem myself (sarcasm) I've been reading this book by Francis Chan called "Crazy Love," and it he discusses his discovery of Gods specific love and divine plan for his life. He comes upon this by reading Jeremiah 1:4-5 where God says to Jeremiah, "Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart." Thinking this might have just applied to the prophet Jeremiah, Francis was reminded of Ephesians 2:10, where we are commanded to "Do good works, which God has prepared for us in advance to do." His realization is that God knew us before we were here and prepared a plan for our lives. He planned for us individually ahead of time to follow Him in order to be effective stewards of His love, to do "good works" which advance His Ultimate Plan. We have to choose to be a part of it, and as with the Apostle Paul or my Dad, sometimes he chases people down. His plan is different for everyone in the micro sense, but He's the only Being with any eternal perspective in the macro sense, so we're forced to trust Him in order to be a part of it. People like Martin Luther King, Jr. and Mother Theresa were figures who trusted God's plan and followed it into harms way out of conviction from the calling to do "good works," which I have no doubt God "planned in advance" for them to do. It's a humbling concept that an all powerful God would love us so much and want to know us so intimately that He would chase us down in order to make us a part of His loving plan. When people truly respond to His Plan, you see the loving approach to equality, sacrifice for the weak and service to others like MLK Jr. and Mother Theresa were characterized by.

I think of my parents meeting out of what seemed like sheer happenstance, thousands of miles from their home-towns. I think of their dramatic conversions, how my dad was chased down through a seven year process where God, through experiences and interactions, would not leave him alone. I think of my childhood, my five siblings and my two Haitian-born sisters, the opportunity given to us to learn about God and accept His Plan for our lives... When I step back and look at all this, it doesn't seem like random chance. It seems to me like my parents were accosted by the Holy Spirit, chased down by a God that had a plan, and plan that they had no intent of fulfilling when they started their adulthood. I think about the people in my life who have steered me toward that Plan, even when I fought so ignorantly against it.

I've seen what I claim to be God's work in my life. It sounds crazy, I know, to talk about things you can't see or prove with your basic senses, but I've felt the peace of knowing my Creator. It's better than any other high I've experienced. I've felt drawn and called to certain things, hard things that I didn't want to do, but when I came out on the other end I realized how blessed I'd been for doing them. The point is I wouldn't be here if not for God's work in my parents, and regardless if they admit it or not they were used for His glory in their youth, and although in their 50's they have nearly forgotten His gift, His plan continues through us, their children.

Part of me says He's done chasing them, that His work in them was fulfilled in us, that their role in the Plan is done... but another part of me says He desperately longs for communion with them again. The God I read about in the Bible isn't one that turns His back on lost children. Jesus illustrates God as the father in the Prodigal Son parable. The son spent his entire inheritance partying and dishonoring his father, but in the end his dad accepts him back with loving arms and throws a feast for his lost son who came back to him. Jesus spoke about Gods love is like a shepherd who would leave his ninety-nine sheep in the wilderness just to find that one lost sheep. When I read that I don't think God is fine with any of His sheep or His children wandering off, going their own way, unprotected and vulnerable. I could be stretching it, but perhaps that parable also says something about our innate need for community. Perhaps the ninety-nine in the flock are safer because they have each other, they have strength in numbers, but the lost sheep is all alone, in desperate need of a shepherd and community, and because of it's unique situation the shepherds heart breaks for it. So much so that he leaves the ninety-nine "found" sheep to go find the lost one.

When I read about Gods Plan, I think about it's significance and how it far surpasses our own personal plans. This is much more than just life and death. "Lost" and "Found" have significant spiritual meanings and outcomes. It's true that not all who wander are lost, I've wandered my fair share and I believe it is a part of how I'm wired. I also think it's true that those who seek will find... I've found that when I honestly seek God without any conditions, He always shows up. Those who are truly lost and running away, however, are characterized by selfishness. They give very little. Lost people are plagued with worry and stress, they're misguided, prone to denial and indulgence in frivolity. Chan says in his book that "Worry and stress reek of arrogance." It's true that at their core, worry and stress are selfish feelings. The number one concern of those emotions is Self. Those emotions display lack of peace, distrust and ignorance of God's unconditional love and provision, and they also restrain the ability for one to love and sacrifice for others. Worry and stress cause us to implode, completely taking us away for Gods plan for us to "do good works" which He has "planned in advance for us to do." 

I once heard a quote that said something like this: "What you do for yourself in this life will die with you, but what you do for others will live forever." I don't know who wrote it, but it's definitely a Biblical principle. People who become obsessed with their tiny, insignificant plans, become characterized by worry and stress. They become selfish. They become lost.

Jesus tells us that if even man, who is sinful in nature, gives good gifts to his children, how much more does the perfect God of heaven wish to give to those who call him Father? He also says not to worry, because if God takes care of the birds, making sure they have nests and food, how much more will He take care of us, His most beloved creation? The difference is that as humans we have a choice. We can choose to have His help and peace, to live without anxiety or stress or worry or anger or any negative emotions. We can choose to trust in the Ultimate Plan and to do our part by doing "good works he has planned in advance for us to do." Or we can bear our own burdens, hyper-focus on our selfish, temporal plans and watch worry and stress swallow our lives and damage ourselves and our families.

May we all seek the bigger, better plans for our lives.

"For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future."

                                                         -Jeremiah 29:11 (NIV)


  1. I needed to hear that right now. Thanks!

  2. I wish more people would try to live by these principles. It's so hard to get rid of that selfishness. I'm constantly reminding myself to put others first, but the important thing is to try.

  3. It really is amazing how selfishness is a common theme in pretty much every sin. I find it hard to do "good deeds" and not expect recognition, but the Bible states (paraphrase) we should do these things in a way so our left hand is unaware of what our right hand is doing (or vice versa). So, we must selflessly do something for someone else and expect eternal reward? How is that HUMANly possible in this day and age? It's not. Thanks Matt.

  4. I don't think I ever accepted the idea that there in a single, predetermined path--God's plan--that we have to do our best to adhere to or uncover. I see more a series of principles and guidelines put forward in the Bible for us to apply to the fairly disconnected sequence of events in our lives that is determined by the various decisions we freely make. I don't feel an overwhelming burden of transgression when I fail to adhere to those guidelines. They are there to identify the least painless way, but what is life if not a series of failures and mistakes? Doesn't that define humanity? Neither the Bible nor human existence would lead us to expect that our lives on this earth were meant to be pain-free. People who do get crushed under what is literally a painful reality.

    I don't deny that God speaks; God intervenes; God directs. But I wonder how much of this plan that I hear so much about is a way of self-comfort; of self-reassurance; of validating the choices a person makes that they might not feel quite comfortable with...a way of organizing a person's circumstances in a certain light to perhaps reinforce beliefs we want to have about the world, or to hide from painful decisions. If we can ascribe something to God's will in our life, we can neatly eschew responsibility for it, quiet dissension from peers, or escape confrontations that might rattle our understanding of the world and faith. If this plan is something true, I'm convinced it's not the version so blithely and easily alluded to by many Christians today.


  5. Leah, I agree to a point. I believe that there isn't one specific plan that is unchanging, as far as where we live, what we do for work, and who we're with. I think God obviously gave us the freedom of choice to allow us to decide for ourselves those things. Maybe once in awhile, at a cross roads, He gives us a nudge one way over the other, because He knows that one way is more beneficial than the other.

    Years ago Kristies dad felt a calling to ministry, but due to his responsibility as provider for their family he opted to stay doing the business he'd been doing. Was that God calling him? Perhaps. But did God abandon Him when he went on with his life as planned? No. He's been able to bless many people and I've seen God's work in his life to this very day. God is not some one-sided, linear being who is shallow and boring. He's the Creator of the universe, the most artfully impulsive and magnificently unpredictable thing that we could never comprehend. It'd be blasphemy to assume that there's only one practical plan, and that outside of that you're disobeying God.

    So to agree with you, it would be putting God in a box to say that theres only one specific "what/when/where" plan and it doesn't change. However, I think the Bible is clear that His plan for us to "do good works" in those "what/where/whens" remains the same. There's always a right choice and a wrong choice (and sometimes an ignorant choice), but most of these things have to do with our interactions with people and God, not with what we're having for dinner.

  6. Thanks I needed to hear that!I've been a Christian since i was three and for ten years I've hat the "negative emotions".I was probably eight or nine when i starter to not have peace and trust.I guess i don't understand how.Also i think i got caught up in the God can still love me because of my history."religion" part of it;Other then the relationship part of it.
    Thanks again!

  7. "Crazy Love" is a wonderful book...I just finished reading it about 2 weeks ago and I loved it. It moved me in many ways, and I am glad to hear someone else is reading it too. Thanks for this Matt. It was a great read and I think I needed to read this. I love that you share...keep it up man!

  8. one thing i really like about what you said is that you mention the Holy Spirit. I find a lot of Christians today (even myself) forget about the thid part of the Blessed Trinity. We all think it is God, and Jesus. We all seem to forget the Holy Spirit. Without the Spirit, we wouldnt be able to do "the good works" that God has planned us to do. The Holy Spirit breathes on us to help do God's will, and we tend to forget about the Spirit a decent amount.

    thanks for writing this. i really anjoyed it!
    peace 'n' love

  9. Matt,
    These words and the concept they express are beautiful, and apply directly to the situations and circumstances I face in my life right now.

    First of all, I really appreciate how everything you said was backed up by the Bible and the Truth(s) that Jesus expressed. I've found an unfortunate trend with bloggers, as of late. When discussing ideas and characteristics pertaining to God and the Christian walk, the writers of such blogs fail to back up their claims with a source; the Source. I thank you for that, from the bottom of my heart.

    Secondly, your view with the generally worldwide society and mindset we all live around (or in, sometimes) is right on track with reality. Another trend I've found, with my fellow Christians in general, has been this incredibly blasphemous trend of denying this reality. From the pulpit, preachers will make wild claims, based in nothing but arrogance, ignorance, and often greed. The way you've described the world, and society in general, is marvelous.

    Thirdly, and lastly, God's grace and His unconditional love is astounding and perfect. You've also managed to describe well what is nearly indescribable. I applaud you for that, and I thank you for your genuine honesty found throughout your life, your music, and your words. You've been a tremendous blessing to me, personally; and I can only imagine how many others you've touched.

    In your song, "Broken Mess" (My favorite song from The Classic Crime), you describe the nearly unbearable plight that your brother faced. This song in itself is touching, from the music to the lyrics. But what the lyrics express is what matters in the long run; at least, that's what I've always believed. You sing in the end:

    "Love is a beautiful thing
    She can make your heart sing
    When you're walking on broken glass
    She will open your eyes
    Make your heart feel alive
    Point you towards the sunrise
    Help you leave all this broken mess behind"

    I know this must have some personal meaning, to both you and the brother you're singing about. However, as far as I can see, this is a beautiful description of God's love for us, His perfect love. This song, and your lyrics and writings as a whole, have given me hope through the hopeless circumstances; and have ultimately encouraged me to get to know God in a more personal, meaningful way. Your writing has steered me towards the Light, and for that, I thank you, Matt.

    God bless you and your family. I'll be in prayer for your parents to find their way back to God, back to the fiery love they once knew so well.

    And never forget the steadfast and unmovable love God has for us.

    "For the LORD is good; his steadfast love endures forever, and his faithfulness to all generations"

    Psalm 100:5


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  11. Great post! Loved hearing that. Coincidentally, I've been meditating lately over Isaiah 49, which also talks alot about plans-- God's plan for Isaiah. My favorite line is this:
    "See? I have engraved you on the palms of my hands. You walls are ever before me."
    He loves us so much!

  12. You have managed to touch on some of my own feelings as of late, I agree that one does need to spend time with God in the Word. I also believe that the Bible is a blueprint of God's Plan, God breathed to help guide us along our way.

    But, perhaps God's plan is really very simple, as these verses suggest:
    "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him." (John 3:16-17)
    "This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins." (1 John 4:9-10)

    Maybe God’s plan is simply to draw us closer to himself by giving us eternal life through Jesus and that we should learn to live through Jesus, by trying our best to emulate him while we are here. So even though we make our own choices and mistakes, God will use them in His wisdom to arrive at the destination He has planned. So maybe that destination is the same for everyone, but God has different routes planned for each of us. Just as you said you can see God’s hand in your life, I can also see how God has directed me to where I am now, but my journey was a difficult one, full of many detours and is far from over, I am still a long way from who He wants me to be. I think that His plan is for us to join him in Heaven and if we decide to answer his call, we must be willing to follow where he leads us!

  13. Matt,
    A good read and it's nice to hear your thoughts on what the "christian life" and "God's plans" are all about.
    I understand what Leah said about "choices" in the big picture as I think the bible lays out principles for our lives that God DOES want us to live by. When I think about God's plan for us though it boils down to one important fact. For me it is probably the most difficult in my christian walk. It is His plan for a relationship.

    God's desire for closeness is to me the biggest aspect of His plan. It falls into why he saved us or why we are "born again". He desired it with Adam and Eve, Abraham, Israel, and now every Christian who walks the face of this planet.

    Its what he most desire's but the most difficult for myself. Everything in the world pulls me from my relationship with him so it is my (and probably your's) constant battle. I honestly believe this is how it boils down to.
    If my relationship is close with Him my good works to this world will shine through.
    If my relationship is close with Him my light will be bright.
    If my relationship is close with Him my obedience will be so much easier
    If my relationship is close with Him I will worship in a truer and more real sense.
    For me that is what it Hinges on.
    You nailed it when you wrote about reading and studying the bible, how can I be close if I am not hearing his voice?
    Anyways my thoughts have turned into random spurts of writings!

    God bless you my friend,

    Down in Nicaragua

  14. I agree almost completely with Leah. One of my hugest irritations with the Christian Church is its tendancy to call nearly anything miraculous. The line between "interactions with people and God" and "what we're having for dinner," as Matt says, is a very broad, grey one. Who decides what is petty/irrelevant enough that God probably wouldn't intervene?

    Over the years, this is the understanding I have been coming to: Life is full of intricacies because there is a Creator, but the Creator did not necessarily "reach in" and put them there. I think of it the same way I do butterflies: they ofen have designs much more intricate than necessary for survival, yet they're a product of evolution. Likewise, things happen, people make decisions, and complex, unlikely situations arise. But most (if not all) of the time, calling it divine intervention is self-deception. People can't even noramlly say authoritatively whether it was actually God or not.

    Because we, as humans, can't get our mind around the fact that God is everywhere and in everything done/said/experienced, Christians isolate "special" instances and hype them up to such an extent that it becomes the voice of God himself speaking. Insert Leah's second paragraph here. People go nuts (go on a "high," as Matt said in the original blog) when they see "God working", but the entirety of life is a giant lesson, a giant story, saturated with God.

    So, even if we act freely, God's nature is such that regardless of the path we choose, our end has been known by God all along; and that end is perfect, because God is there, and God is perfect. As it is with the Physical world, the Spritual world is ultimately balanced according to his natural law. Just. Peaceful. Perfect. Regardless of what we do. His will is different from his plan... His will, the ideal, painless path... His plan, ironically, is what *we* do and what the Universe does, because we're his artwork.

  15. Oh wow, Matt...unbelievable, because I've been reading (err, planning to continue to read) Crazy Love, too! Your post has given me an extra push to keep reading it. :)

    Often, a testimony is the best way to encourage believers and seekers alike--who knows how God may use this, and everything else... (including music!) thanks, brother!