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Matthew Bauer
 

Matthew's Blog

Remove My Veil

removemyveil.jpgDear Lord, remove my veil. Let the world see you clearly. Exalt yourself in me and strip from me everything that hides your perfect presence from shining forth from this broken vessel to all your creation.

In Exodus 34, we see what happens to a man when he immerses himself in the glory of God. “Now it was so, when Moses came down from Mount Sinai… that he did not know that the skin of his face shone while he talked with God.” The brilliance of God’s presence shone like light, glowing off the skin of Moses’ face. It’s said that when a woman is pregnant, she has a glow about her from the life that is within, but this life within Moses was far greater than anyone could have imagined, and it radiated from him with such intensity that even his own brother was afraid to come near him.

In verse 33, we see Moses’ response to that fear, as he put a veil over his face to dim its brilliance. “Whenever Moses went in before the Lord to speak with Him, he would take the veil off until he came out; and he would come out and speak to the children of Israel whatever he had been commanded. And whenever the children of Israel saw the face of Moses, that the skin of Moses’ face shone, then Moses would put the veil on his face again…” (v. 34-35)

I’m in the midst of preparing a message for next Sunday about the New Covenant, and in it I talk about this glory, how the Israelites were afraid to come near it, and how in the New Covenant, God invites us to not only draw near to His presence, but to be filled by it and shine it forth, just like Moses. But today, I’m struck by the other side of this story. It was Moses who put on the veil to hide the presence of God from the people.

If you’ve read my last post, you’ll know that my prayer lately is this… “make me more like Jesus.” And in that prayer, my conviction is that in being like Him, I will have the boldness to share who He is without reserve.

It’s been a long time now since God gave me the conviction not to “dumb-down” my teachings, lest they offend or frighten or confuse people, but I remember His words to me every time I speak, every time I write, every time I pray, or every time I minister. “Do not hide My presence,” He says.

And I don’t want to be complacent with God’s presence. I don’t want to shrink from His greatness to give the world a god of mediocrity or passivity or weakness. I serve a God, in whose presence people are healed! I serve a God, in whose presence people are set free! I serve a God in whose presence there is no lack, no fear, no hatred, no perversion! I serve a God whose mere words create galaxies! I serve a God, by whom the touch of His shadow can make me whole! Is this the God I am showing the world?

I am broken now to the point of tears, because I know I wear a veil. It’s the veil of my own fear, of my own misunderstanding, my own disbelief, my own satisfaction with mediocrity, my own disappointment when God has responded in seeming silence. It’s hard enough to believe in this God for myself, let alone to share Him boldly with others!

And so I cry, “Dear Lord, remove my veil!”

“I want to see You as big as You are, and I want the world to see that through me. I want to see You as close as You are, and I want others to draw close to you through me. I want to see you as powerful as You are, as loving as You are, as healing as You are, as pure as You are, as selfless as You are, as beautiful as You are, and I want the world to see that through me.”

“Dear Lord, remove my veil!”

In Matthew 27, we read of the crucifixion of Jesus. He cried out in a loud voice and yielded up His spirit. And then, immediately after He died, “the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom; and the earth quaked and the rocks were split, and the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised; and coming out of the graves after His resurrection, they went into the holy city and appeared to many.” (v. 51-53)

Jesus came that we might know the Father. His death fulfilled that purpose when the veil that hid our Father’s presence was torn. It was the veil that only the holiest of priests could walk through and live. It was the veil that kept everyone else safe from God’s presence. And it was the veil that WE put there – not God.

Jesus did some amazing things on this earth (and still does via the Holy Spirit). But He told us to do likewise. He told us that we would do even greater things than He did – for it was our task all along. He came to give us a jumpstart and a change in perspective so we could receive all we needed to fulfill it, but now it is OUR job to show the world our Father and King. It is OUR job to heal the sick and feed the hungry and care for the orphan and the widow. It is OUR job to proclaim freedom to the captives, to heal the brokenhearted, to preach good tidings to the poor, to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord, to comfort those who morn… (see Isaiah 61). And we can do these things because the veil was torn.

At least God has done His part. But what veils of our own have we put up to keep us safe from a wild, powerful, and unpredictable God? What veils do we hide behind when we go out into the world because we are ashamed of our faith, or because we doubt God will use us, or because we are afraid to fail in our attempts to make disciples? What veils still cloud His presence?

My prayer for you today is that you will join me in the brokenness of this cry, that your eyes will be opened to the veils that cover His presence in your life, and that this, too, would be on your lips as you go out into the world… “Dear Lord, remove my veil!”
Posted: 2/27/2016 3:03:23 PM by Matthew Bauer | with 0 comments


Make Me Like Jesus

makemelikejesusr.jpgLast night I woke up at 1:30 am. It’s the second night in a row. And it’s one thing to wake up, but another thing entirely when you can’t fall back asleep for hours on end. Usually, when this happens, I take time to pray and to seek the Lord, and this was one of those times.

Last night’s conversation dealt with a lot of insecurities. It probably has a lot to do with starting a new job, being in a new city, and trying to learn a new culture (I just moved across the country this month to serve as Executive Pastor of a new church). But it went deeper than that. It really had to do with my identity and purpose in the Kingdom of God, and the difference I’m making in this world as a co-heir and disciple of Christ.

In the midst of it all, I found myself praying… “God, make me like Jesus.” At first, it seemed like a nice enough prayer, but as it kept repeating throughout the night, I began to ask the question, “what exactly does that mean?”

Now I’m sure many of us have prayed prayers like this over the years, thinking of the Jesus who was full of compassion, full of love, full of sacrifice; who was gentle, patient, forgiving, extravagant; you know, the safe Jesus. The one who would rather die than cause a fight. The one who would give everything He had just so everyone would get along and feel happy all the time and be free of sin.

But what about the Jesus who boldly confronted the religious authorities of His day? What about the Jesus who turned the tables in the Temple and drove the merchants out with a whip? What about the Jesus who sent demons running to the pigs, who had such faith as to walk on water, who stood unflinching before His accusers, who walked straight through the crowds of people that wanted to kill Him, who was so full of power that the slightest touch of His robe could heal every disease? What about the Jesus who hung out with prostitutes and thieves and sinners? What about the Jesus who lived against the grain, who didn’t get lost trying to fit in with the gods of the culture around Him? What about that Jesus?

I’ve been really convicted about being like that Jesus lately. And I’ve been seeking the Lord about why that’s not a greater part of my everyday life. Sure, I’ve faced my battles and had my confrontations, and I’ve made my share of sacrifices to live “against the grain.” I’d even dare say I’m pretty good at it. But two things stand out to me as being wrong:

First, me being good at something doesn’t make it right – it’s the Holy Spirit in me who’s power does the work, and if I give myself the credit, I’m probably not doing it right. The ministers in Matthew 7 were cast out of Heaven for thinking they could do ministry by their own power, and that means I must become a lot weaker (something I’m not very good at), so that His power has room to work within me.

Second, if I were to describe the daily example of Christ that I bring to the world, it would look a lot less like that Jesus and more like the safe Jesus. That’s not to say that the safe Jesus is not a good thing, but it is far from complete without the demonstration of His power. In John 10:37, Christ Himself said “If I do not do the works of My Father, do not believe Me.” His grace must be accompanied by His power.

When Jesus promised He would send the Holy Spirit to us, He told us we would be clothed with “power from on high” (Luke 24:49). But as a church, we’ve shied away from the power and taken shelter behind a pulpit. We love to teach about the power, but our lives no longer demonstrate it in the world. We’ve hidden ourselves behind closed doors, behind a few good deeds, behind our tolerance, and we’re just trying to make it through until Jesus comes back to set things right.

And that’s just it – Jesus left us with the charge to carry His power to the world. Is He coming back? Yes! But God forbid that He should come back to see the seed He planted hidden away and unfruitful like the servant with only one talent (see Matthew 25)!

Look around you. Turn on the news. There is something terribly wrong when the devil’s power shines brighter than God’s power in our world! It simply should not be. The church is there, but it is sitting on the sidelines, or at best, it is playing defense. But we’ve got the ball, and we know that we’re playing for the wining team!

I want to live a life every day that exudes that understanding. I want to walk into a restaurant and have the atmosphere shift instantly. I want the wait-staff to be healed of every disease. I want the management to give their lives to Jesus. I want the folks at the bar to discover the living water that will quench their eternal thirst and change their lives forever. I want to see the dead raised. I want to see the oppressed set free. I want to be the evidence of a powerful, living, abundant, almighty God to this world!

And I don’t know what it’s going to take to get there. I could say that I need to be more devout, pray harder, fast more often, memorize more scripture… but again, it’s not my power that I’m after, but God’s. And it’s not the price that I must pay for that power, but the price Jesus already paid for it. Sure, those things are great, but I have to get it into my brain – I cannot do anything to achieve God’s power. I can only do things to receive it. And I must risk appearing weak and foolish so I can be a vessel for it in this world.

One thing I do know, the prayer of “make me like Jesus” cannot be prayed from the bleachers. It is a prayer that is going to take something of me. It’s like praying for God to teach you patience – you may get the results you’re looking for, but there may be some pain in the process. You’re going to have to get on the field, get your hands dirty, make some risky plays, maybe take a hit or two, and quite likely face the jeers and insults of the opposing crowd. But it’s a prayer that I’m committed to. It’s a prayer that I am willing to make not just with my words at 1:30 in the morning, but with my life.

“God, whatever it means, whatever it looks like, whatever it takes… make me like Jesus!”
 
Posted: 1/28/2016 8:41:46 PM by Matthew Bauer | with 0 comments


What Are You Looking At?

what-are-you-looking-at.jpgOne of my absolute favorite stories in the Bible is when Peter walks on the water (Matthew 14:22-33). After feeding the five thousand, Jesus sent His disciples out on the sea, telling them to go on without Him. He’d catch up later. It’s such a setup for what was going to happen, and I can just hear the objections of the disciples in my head.

“No, Master. Let us stay and help you (for the crowds had not yet dispersed).” Or “Come with us. Let the crowds take care of themselves.”

Surely, they did not want to be apart from Jesus, but He had other plans. And so they set out, and while they were sailing, a storm arose over the sea. The disciples were rowing for their lives, trying to keep the boat steady and in one piece, when suddenly, through the storm, they saw Jesus strolling past them, walking on the water.

“It’s a ghost!” they screamed, as if the storm didn’t shake them enough, and they were terrified.

Yet listen to Jesus’ reply: “Oh, be of good cheer! It is I!”

Of course, that’s just a translation, but tell me that’s not funny! Here the disciples are in over their heads, fighting to stay afloat in the midst of a storm, and now they think they’ve seen a ghost. And all Jesus says to them is, “Be of good cheer.” I love it!

Anyway, Peter calls out to Jesus and says, “Lord, if it really is You, call me out onto the sea with You.” And so Jesus called to him, and Peter stepped out onto the sea.

Now, I imagine the sea was pretty turbulent in the midst of the storm, and that would make it rather difficult to walk on, in my opinion, besides the fact that walking on water defies all our scientific understanding and natural law. But it doesn’t say that Peter stumbled across the water or that he struggled his way to Jesus. It simply says he walked—just like any man walks—confidently placing one foot in front of the other and walking straight toward Jesus.

And I don’t know how far away Jesus was, but I do know that Peter walked straight up to Him, because the Scripture says he was within an arm’s reach of his Savior. And when Peter was that close, he finally realized what he was doing (that’s one of the great redeeming qualities of Peter—that he often acted before thinking through what he was really doing). He saw the waves and felt the wind and the rain, and in that moment of distraction, he abandoned his trust in God and put it back on his own understanding. Then quickly he began to sink, and he cried out to Jesus to save him.

Jesus stretched out His hand and caught Peter, and said to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” And when they got into the boat, the storm ceased.

As long as Peter’s eyes were fixed on Jesus, he continued to walk out the call of God in his life. He continued in the impossible, because he never turned his gaze from the one in whom all things are possible. But the moment he turned his gaze away and looked at his circumstances, he began to sink into the turbulent waters around him.

Now, you may have heard me talk before about directing horses, but basically, they go in the direction they’re facing. If you want to turn the horse, you only need to turn its head. And when we turn our heads to look at the impossibilities around us—when we focus on the turbulence of the journey—that’s exactly what we’ll find . . . impossibility, confusion, and instability.

Quite simply, if we’re not looking at Jesus, we’re going the wrong way. Period. And yes, Jesus came to point us to the Father, which should be our ultimate goal, but Jesus said that no one can come to the Father except through Him. That’s because Jesus is the one walking in front of us. If we want to know where to go, we have to follow Him. But look to the left or to the right, and we’ll be lost.

That begs to ask, what are you looking at?
Posted: 9/17/2015 11:08:47 AM by Matthew Bauer | with 0 comments


The TRUE Teacher

Classroom“But the anointing which you have received from Him abides in you, and you do not need that anyone teach you; but as the same anointing teaches you concerning all things, and is true, and is not a lie, and just as it has taught you, you will abide in Him.” (1 John 2:27)

Now, before I begin, let me state clearly my belief and full agreement with Paul’s writing to Timothy, in which he says, “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” (2 Timothy 3:16-17) I am eternally grateful for the testimony of Scripture. I believe it to be true. I rely on it daily.

However, let me point out that even Paul was not referring to his own writing (or any of the New Testament writings, for that matter) as Scripture. And let me also point out that the Scriptures are meaningless to the natural man, but require the Holy Spirit’s interpretation for our proper understanding and application…

“But as it is written: ‘Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for those who love Him.’ But God has revealed them to us through His Spirit. For the Spirit searches all things, yes, the deep things of God. For what man knows the things of a man except the spirit of the man which is in him? Even so no one knows the things of God except the Spirit of God.” (1 Corinthians 2:9-11)

And even Paul did not claim in His letters to write or teach anything that was not revealed by the Holy Spirit. That is why, just two verses later, he says…

“These things we also speak, not in words which man’s wisdom teaches but which the Holy Spirit teaches, comparing spiritual things with spiritual. But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.” (1 Corinthians 2:13-14)

The fact is, Paul could not rely on anyone else’s interpretation or testimony of Jesus or the Holy Spirit. Yes, he spent a brief amount of time with Christ’s first disciples, but he had no other testimony than of his own personal experience with God. It is true that Paul knew his Scripture well (the Old Testament, as we know it, or at least very close), but the things he wrote of were of something new, of something that had never happened before.

The same was true for Matthew and Mark, John and Peter, and all the other apostles who penned their names to scripture. Luke had nothing to go by when he wrote the testimony of Jesus’ life, except for his own personal experience and relationship. He had no other reference to the intimate and powerful baptism of the Holy Spirit that he wrote of in the book of Acts, or of the workings of the Church, except that he lived it and walked among it day after day, breathing in the new thing God was doing, perhaps with some understanding, or perhaps just watching in amazement as God’s plans unfolded before his very eyes.

Go back with me further. For whom did Isaiah use as a model when writing his book of prophecy? Whom did David use to model the Psalms? What Scripture was there for Moses or Abraham or Noah?

Our Scriptures, in fact, are full of testimonies from men and women who experienced God moving in a new way and didn’t have any Scripture to guide them through. All they had was their own personal relationship with God, a powerful faith, some raw honesty, and the wide-eyed perspective of someone riding in the front seat of an extreme roller coaster ride.

Now we can learn a lot from the testimonies of these folks. We can learn from their successes and from their mistakes. We can learn how to deal with the ups and downs of the ride. We can let their heroism inspire our faith. We can learn from their character, their questions, God’s power, His responses and His faithfulness in their lives. We can test what we see and hear to make sure it lines up with the account of God’s character and Word throughout history.

We can come to know God in greater ways through the Scripture, and we can learn much about ourselves, too. It is, after all, “profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness.” (2 Timothy 3:16) But again, unless the Holy Spirit reveals these things to us, the things of God are mere “foolishness” (1 Corinthians 2:13-14).

God has said (and I’ve head hundreds of pastors, teachers, and prophets all echo these same words in this very age), “Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?” (Isaiah 43:19) He doing a new thing in this hour – right now in this very moment - and nothing can quite prepare us for it, except for the Holy Spirit and the testimony of our own relationship with Him.

We find ourselves in a day and hour, just like all the men and women before us (Paul, Luke, Isaiah, David, Moses, Abraham, Noah, …), and sometimes, as I’m sure it was for them, it feels like we’re flying by the seat of our pants. But God has sent us His Spirit to give show us the way. He has given us the anointing of His direct teaching, and it is so powerful that John says we don’t need any other teacher (1 John 2:27).

If we are to be prepared for the mighty call of God on our lives, to do “greater things” than Jesus (John 14:12 - and those are new things, indeed), and to be ready for the second coming of Christ, we must let that anointing which abides in us (1 John 2:27 – that is, the Holy Spirit) prepare us and teach us according to His will.

But be forewarned, many false prophets will come. Jesus and the first apostles warned us of false teachers and prophets and of those claiming to be Messiah who would lead many people away from God’s truth. And not only are there physical voices vying for our attention, but there are spiritual voices as well, whispering lies all around us, trying to turn our heads to the left or the right to get us off track from where we’re supposed to be.

That’s why John says we must test the spirits. “Beloved, do not believe every spirit,” he says (1 John 4:1-3), “but test the spirits, whether they are of God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world. By this you know the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is of God, and every spirit that does not confess that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is not of God. And this is the spirit of the Antichrist, which you have heard was coming, and is now already in the world.”

This, of course, is the best way to test the words we hear, but we can also use Scripture to align what we hear with the story that God is continuing to unfold. God is the same yesterday, today, and forever (Hebrews 13:8), so we can look to the Scripture to see if something lines up with the word and character of God throughout time. God may be doing a new work, but He’s going to do it consistently with the way He’s always done things. You can use the Scripture to confirm what the Spirit is teaching you, and likewise, the Spirit will teach you through the Scripture.

The real point of what I’m trying to say here is the story didn’t end with canonized scripture. It didn’t end just because some guys in a room (and thank God for them) said “that’s all He wrote!” The story continues with you and me. God continues to unfold His story through us, and He said even greater things are to come! Those in the church who view the Bible as God’s complete work are sorely mistaken! It is a great disappointment, I believe, when the Church refuses to move or to grow because it thinks the work is finished. Yes, Jesus paid the final price for our sins, but He gave us a mission after that. And He sent the Holy Spirit to continue His teaching and His working among us – to equip us to go even farther in ministry than He did.

We cannot miss this, Church! God is not done with us yet!!

Several years ago, God showed me a picture. He showed me a book, containing all of my life up to that point. And then He turned the page. There was a new chapter; a new page, with nothing written on it. In God’s hand, He held a pen, and He told me, “You only know what you’ve experienced until now. You only understand life according to things that have already been written. But behold, I do a new thing!

Be ready for the new things of God. Use the Scriptures; read them; study them; know them; but most of all pursue that intimate, one-on-one relationship with God through the Holy Spirit that will allow Him to teach you and guide you and lead you where no one has ever dared to go before. Let Him take you on an adventure into the unknown, and follow Him as one of His true disciples. Watch, wait, listen, and pray. See where He will lead you. Do what He does and say what He says. For He is your true teacher.

ADDENDUM:

I want to be very clear about this message. It does NOT mean that we should not submit to our leaders, or that we should not have teachers and mentors and pastors in this world. On the contrary, God said these are good. In fact, He gave US the task of making disciples, which means we have to both teach and be taught by other people. It is a true gift and blessing to learn from others – that, in fact, is what the Scriptures are about. The testimonies and teaching of others who walked with God fills up every page of the Good Book.

I believe that using others is one of the most powerful ways the Holy Spirit works. For Jesus prayed that we would be one, and said that the Spirit would unify us. Do not use what I’ve said in this teaching as an excuse to shut others out, to rebel against your leaders, to fill yourself with pride, or to stop reading the Word or listening to other anointed teachers. But know that the Lord comes first. His word prevails, and none of those other sources will mean anything without a personal relationship with the Spirit, who reveals the deep things of God’s heart.

Posted: 9/30/2014 3:51:50 PM by Matthew Bauer | with 0 comments


The Banana Principle

bananas.jpgI had a dream last night. It was a vivid dream, and it had absolutely nothing to do with bananas. In it was a short stretch of road, which I traveled many times during the course of the night. The first time I traveled this road, there was a single banana lying in the middle of the road. “Strange,” I thought, but other than to notice it, this simple piece of fruit had no meaning, and I continued on my way.

But each time I traveled that road, the banana multiplied. Pretty soon, it had transformed into a literal mountain of bananas that I had to climb over to get to where I was going. It was completely exaggerated in my sight, and had become a significant hindrance.

Now, this still had nothing to do with my dream, but it follows a pattern that is not only common in my dreams, but which comes up time and time again in my life and in the lives of the people whom God has brought to me for ministry. Something that starts off so innocent and trivial, over time, begins to become a mountain. A lie becomes a belief; a curiosity becomes a habit, which becomes an addiction; that thing your spouse does that was so cute when you were dating, now makes you want to rip your hair out and run for the hills.

Solomon’s Song of Songs warns us, specifically with regard to relationships (with God, with our spouse, with our neighbors, with ourselves), “Catch for us the foxes, the little foxes that ruin the vineyards, our vineyards that are in bloom.” (2:15) These are the bananas in the road, the small, insignificant, sometimes cute, sometimes innocent little things in our way that can cause a whole lot of trouble down the road, unless we deal with them.

And that’s the problem. They’re not threatening at first, so we let that little thing slide, so we don’t cause any trouble. We believe the little white lies we tell, because it’s easier than confronting the truth. We start avoiding the ones we love, because we don’t want to discover the root of why they so easily trigger our anger.

A single fox can do a whole lot of damage to a vine, by gnawing away at its roots until the whole plant dies from the inside out. In the same way, these little things – these little beliefs, these little annoyances, these little obstacles, these innocent addictions – can set our whole lives askew as they eat us up from the core of our being.

All of us, in one way or another, have been affected by these foxes. They form our beliefs about who God is, who we are, and how we relate to others. And they keep us from healthy relationships, fruitful ministry, joy-centered emotions, fulfilled purpose, and the freedom and abundant life Christ came to give us. They are almost all based in lies that we have believed along the way that we need to take to God in repentance, receive His healing for, and replace with His truth.

We cannot ignore the foxes (or the bananas) in our lives any longer. We have to trap them before they become mountains in our lives. And for the ones that are already mountains (the ones leading to divorce, health problems, addictions, withdrawal and depression, and other things), we need to activate our faith, get help, if necessary, and tell those mountains to crumble.

What are the foxes in your life – the bananas in the road? If you are struggling to see them right now, ask someone close to you – I’m sure they’d be glad to point some of them out to you! And if you need help, may I recommend a good book to you? The Journey to Freedom is one of the best tools I know of to help you deal with these obstacles in your life and move on toward your freedom and abundance in Christ. I know, I know, I wrote it, but it’s been confirmed by countless people already that there’s nothing else like it to guide you completely through this process. Check it out – I know it will change your life forever.
Posted: 4/19/2013 8:45:57 PM by Matthew Bauer | with 0 comments


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