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Hobbies and Repentance

Posted: July 8, 2018 in Uncategorized

There are many things in this life that we can enjoy and should be enjoyed. Some are most important to enjoy, like spending time with The Lord, spending time with our families, and spending time with other Christian believers. Other things are not so important but still great things to be enjoyed, like, having a good steak, spending time with friends, going on vacation, and any other thing that brings great joy and puts a smile on your face. I believe that all of these things, as well as any other good things, are truly to be enjoyed to the fullest.

For me, I have a habit of enjoying the things that are not so important way too much. Especially hobbies. I love watching baseball, going to baseball games, and playing softball. I love shredding at the skatepark or the local trails on my BMX bike. I love heading off into the hills on my mountain bike. I love Saturday morning rounds of golf. I love going to off-road races in the desert, staring into the sky at night, eating at taco stands in the middle of Mexico, and flying through the desert in a truck so fast that everything is a blur. All of these things are great fun and make life all the more enjoyable. They get me outside, I get some exercise, they are spent with great friends, full of lots of laughs and smiles, and leave me with memories that will last forever that I will always look back on with a thankful heart.

The hobbies themselves clearly aren’t bad. But when they become the most important things, they are a problem. When I say the most important things, I am both talking about what I am physically spending my time doing, and also what I spend my time thinking about. This is my problem.

I fall into the habit of letting my thoughts be consumed by things that don’t matter the most, which in turn doesn’t leave room for my thoughts to be filled by the things that are most important. Mostly my relationship with Christ, my marriage to the most wonderful woman, and being dad to my handsome little guy Austin. It’s heartbreaking and it’s unfortunately not new for me. It is something that I have wrestled with for years. The difference is that now I have a lot more at stake. It affects more people, people who are dependent on me, and a failure on my part to be fully devoted to them with my time and my thoughts can be devastating. Not just while I am with them, but also when I am not with them. It is imperative that I am devoted to them in my thoughts and actions 24/7.

This weekend I had to confess to my wife that I had sinned against her, against our son, and against our Lord Jesus Christ. As I asked for her for forgiveness, in love and kindness she drew nearer to me as she forgave me. She is such a reflection of God’s grace and forgiveness as she acts in a Christlike way by drawing near when I have pulled away, by forgiving when I have sinned, by reminding me of her commitment to me no matter what, and that we are one with Christ and one with one another.

I am not sure how I continue to go down this road over and over again. I know what I should be doing, but I can’t seem to stay focused and do the things I should be doing. It’s not only that I know what I should and shouldn’t be doing, it’s that I’m not doing what I want to be doing most. There is nothing in the world I would rather do than dwell on the scriptures and on Christ, to spend every waking minute with my wife and son serving them, and to be devoted to the building of God’s kingdom. Yet while having those things as my deepest longing and desire, I somehow manage to spend a lot of my time doing other things and thinking about other things.

Let me explain exactly what I am talking about and what I am not talking about. I am not talking about the things that I must do every day like going to work, doing things around the house, going to school, or doing anything else you are responsible for. I am talking about the extra things that are mostly, if not entirely, for fun or enjoyment.

For me this is watching baseball games, riding one of my bikes, playing golf, playing softball, or woodworking. Now I can justify doing all of those things and convince myself that they are very important things. For example, I play golf to get some exercise and maintain relationships with friends, I ride my bikes to get exercise, watching baseball is something I just watch in the background while I am doing something else, I play softball with friends from church so it is part of living in community with other believers, and that my time in the garage doing woodworking is because I am building something for my home that I need. While all of that is very true, its only part of the truth because the other truth is that I often use those reasons to justify why I am not doing the most important things because I am still doing good things.

An even bigger problem for me is what I think about each day and where my thoughts are. I can be held captive by what I am thinking about and be completely distracted without knowing it. While at work, at church, with my family, I can be physically present and be entirely somewhere else. A recent example would be my love of bicycles. I collect BMX bikes. All kinds of them both old and new. They remind me of the great memories I have as a kid going everywhere on my bike and all of the adventures I had. I still ride them every chance I get to. It could be around the block, going to the local skatepark, or it could be at the local trails. There are just few things that put a smile on my face like flying through the air on my bike or learning a new trick I have been practicing. I will think about them all day long. I will go on BMX websites to look for bikes that are for sale, I am on those same sites selling some of my bikes to buy more, always trying to find a deal. I am on those sites reading everything. I will wake up in the morning and immediately look to see what is new for sale because I don’t want to miss anything and I want to see if any of my stuff has sold. I can literally think about them all day long. I can come home and be talking with my wife and completely miss what she said because I was thinking about something BMX related. While watching TV or eating dinner I will pick up my phone and start looking for more bikes to buy, more forums to read, and more pictures to look at. I can do this for months on end without even thinking about it or realizing I am doing it. It’s horrible. Not because they are bad in and of themselves, but because of all that I am neglecting in the process.

This is what I just had to repent of to my Lord, to my wife, and to my son because I had sinned against them. I felt compelled to sell off my entire collection of bikes except for the two that I ride to get some exercise. It was really hard to do and felt like something was being ripped away from me. It has felt like a band-aid being ripped off slowly, pulling out each hair one at a time with every bike I sold. Once the last bike was sold, it felt like a weight was lifted. When I decided to sell them off I was so worried about how I would feel once they were all gone, but once they were gone I felt so free. I woke up the next morning and didn’t think about bikes at all. 

Please hear me say this. Hobbies are not bad. Doing what you enjoy is a good thing. Having fun is an important part of life and it is a gift of God. It is when there are other things being neglected in the process when it is a problem. The most important things in life simply cannot be neglected.

What is it for you? What do you spend the bulk of your day thinking about? What do you spend your day doing? When work is over and you are heading home, what are you going to do when you get home? What are you most excited about doing? When you take inventory of what you think about and what you do from the moment you wake up and until you fall asleep, is it full of the most important things? How much time is wasted each day and unaccounted for? How many things and how many people are being neglected by a lack of commitment to who and what is most important? Is it hobbies? Is it politics? Sports? Fitness? Social media? Making money?

I don’t know what it is for you but I pray that your mind, heart, and hands are on what is most important. If you are not sure if this is true for you too ask your family, ask the Lord, or ask those closest to you. They seem to be the ones to know best. 

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Several months ago I wrote about how I didn’t receive a promotion at work that I had been working so hard to get. It has led me on a journey the last few months wrestling with questions about the events of everyday life. The main questions being, “Is God sovereign over every detail of my life?” “Am I living in a way that lines up with what I believe?” “Do I need to change how I live based on what I believe?”

The Promotion
After months of questioning why I didn’t get the promotion at work, I came to a place of contentment with my current position. I was able to find a new outlook on my mundane job. I was able to see all the opportunities where I could help customers in need and serve them in a way that wasn’t possible when I didn’t want to be there. I was able to see how this job is God’s grace so that I can work hard to provide for my family. Most importantly, I was able to see that I was doing the exact job that I am supposed to be doing, and if I was supposed to be doing a different job, The Lord would have provided a different one.

Well I’m happy to share that I did end up getting a promotion at work! The panel that interviewed me for a previous job opening actually created a new position that was seemingly tailor made for me based on my experience and the needs of the department. I am just overwhelmed with joy and thankfulness.

Where do I go from here?
Has getting the promotion changed what I believe about the sovereignty of God? Do I believe I got the job as a result of my hard work or did I get the job because of the sovereign hand of God? Am I more blessed because I got the promotion? These are all difficult questions that I am still working through, but I do want to share where I have landed thus far. While I do believe God blesses in special ways and gives favor at certain times, this is more focused on his sovereignty. This is not an exhaustive explanation, nor one to pick apart every word I say, and is not a final conclusion. It is the conclusion I have come to thus far in the midst of much prayer and contemplation in light of the current circumstances of my life.

Do I believe I got the job as a result of my hard work or the sovereignty of God?
When it comes to the question of whether I got the promotion based on my hard work (free-will to make a choice about my future career) or the the sovereignty of God, I do not believe it is one or the other, but both. I am convinced that everything is subject to the sovereignty of God and that He is in control of everything. When I say that, I do not mean that we are just puppets being controlled by strings at the helm of God in heaven. I am saying that every detail that occurs in the universe is set in motion by God as the creator of the universe. In other words, we have complete free-will that is subject to the sovereignty of God. Not where I live with anxiety about what he may or may not allow me to do, but because he is so good I can know that he chooses to do what is best for me, for the church, the advancement of the kingdom, and the praise of his name. In that I find my greatest joy and deepest satisfaction. You may not think that being under God’s sovereignty is something to delight in, but for me, there is no better place to be than to be exactly where my Lord wants me to be, doing the very thing my Lord wants me to do, at the time he has appointed.

Am I more blessed because I got the promotion?
One might say that I am blessed or that God has given me favor because I got the promotion. As I read the scriptures, I do find examples of blessings and favor that is bestowed on God’s people in the form of a favorable outcome or gift, but I also see something much deeper. I do not believe that I am more blessed because I got the promotion. Even more so, I do not believe that I am more blessed at any point in time because a life event or circumstance ended up being a good or favorable one. That includes getting a promotion, getting a new house, getting a spouse, having many children, or anything else that one would consider a favorable or desired outcome in life. I believe those are all evidences of God’s grace but not any more so than those circumstances not happening. God’s grace and blessing is not just found in favorable outcomes, but also found in what we might consider unfavorable outcomes.

A good working description of grace would be: getting what you don’t deserve. A good definition of blessing would be: God’s favor in the form of a physical gift or circumstance. So if receiving grace is getting what you don’t deserve, who am I to make the ultimate decision of what I think I deserve? I don’t deserve anything. Everything I have is God’s grace. If receiving a blessing from God is receiving something from God as a sign of His favor, who am I to make the determination if his favor comes in the form of a favorable or unfavorable circumstance in life? Can I even say that getting this new position is a blessing purely on the merit of advancement or promotion? Can I equally say that the blessing would be to stay at my old position? I don’t see how either of those outcomes with my employment, or how any other event in life can really be 100% chalked up as a blessing or favor from God.

I can confidently say I am blessed not because of any circumstance of this life, but because I am known by God. This allows me to not be tossed to and fro by life’s circumstances. Every time something bad happens I don’t think the world is crashing down around me, and equally helps me from becoming prideful where I think I am the king of the world when things are going well in life. It frees me to work really hard and do my best at everything in life without the fear of not having it validated by success or perfection. I am free to be me. An imperfect person who falls short on a daily basis, but because God is so good, I can trust that he has everything perfectly under control.

Where my soul finds rest
At the end of the day there are a few things I am certain of. I am more loved by God than I could ever dream of. Not because of anything I have done, but because of God’s grace and mercy in my life. I am blessed by God because I am known by him, not because of any favorable circumstance of this life. Blessing is found in being known by the one who blesses, not in receiving a blessing. I have already received the greatest blessing a man can receive… Jesus paid the debt for all of my sins and because of that I will be with him forever. Every other gift I could ever receive just doesn’t compare to being with Him. When I trust in the Lord, I am free to dream big, I am free to work hard, I am free to take chances, I am free to pursue opportunities, and I can accomplish great things. With that trust in the Lord I can also fail, I can be let down, I can be mistreated, and I can make mistakes. So whether in the midst of celebration or misfortune, because both will happen in due time, I will praise the Lord because of my salvation.

“Trust in the Lord with all of your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths” Proverbs 3:5-6

The Interview
Throughout the last two years I have been working on my bachelor’s degree in Business Administration, taking monthly career enhancement classes through my work, and diligently pursuing a management position within the company I work for. After 18 months of applying for different positions, I finally got my first interview. Based on the job description and requirements, I was convinced this would be the perfect position for me – I have more than enough experience for the position, it would be doing something I love, and doing something I am good at.

I interviewed for the job 4 weeks ago and just got a phone call informing me that I did not get the position. I just didn’t understand why I didn’t get the job. I mean come on, I have worked so hard, and thought I nailed the interview! From the day I got the call informing me I got an interview, I prayed without ceasing asking The Lord to bless me with this position. Day in and day out, praying over and over again. Not just that I would receive the job, but that I would be given this opportunity to make much of my Lord Jesus Christ. I was just crushed.
I kept replaying the interview in mind trying to figure out where I may have come up short. I looked over the job description, trying to see what experience or skill set I was lacking. Then I began to question whether or not I should leave my current employer, wanting to find a job where I can make a difference in people’s lives and do something I love, instead of doing a mundane job where I feel it is encouraged not to excel and not to go out of my way to help people.

The Truth
As excruciating as this was for me, it lasted throughout the afternoon… a very long afternoon. I felt like I was going to throw up and all I wanted to do was scream as loud as I could. Then the Holy Spirit began bringing scriptures to mind that were connected to promises Jesus has made about who I am, who I belong to, what I am called to do with my life, and that my worth, value, and joy are found in Him alone.

Matt, you are my son.
“In love he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will”. Ephesians 1:5

Matt, I will never leave you nor forsake you.
“No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8:37-39

Matt, I delight in you.
“The Lord your God is with you, the Mighty Warrior who saves. He will take great delight in you; in his love he will no longer rebuke you, but will rejoice over you with singing.” Zephaniah 3:17

Matt, find your joy in me and me alone.
“ You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forever more.” Psalm 16:11

Although it is easier said than believed, failures and shortcomings do not define who I am. I am not my own greatest hero. My successes cannot be accredited to how hard I work. My life will not be measured by how many promotions I receive. I will never find my greatest joy and satisfaction in what I do for a living. The truth is, I will only find those things in Christ. My failures are God’s grace and serve as reminders that I am dependent on Him for everything. My accomplishments are God’s grace and reminders that all I have and all I do is because of the work of His spirit in my life. I am defined by the great length in which Jesus went to give his life for mine so that I could become one with him forever. Jesus is the hero of my story. Jesus saved me in the midst of the most horrific sins I have ever committed. Not because I met Him half-way, not because I did enough good deeds to earn His love, but because of His unconditional love for me He relentlessly pursued me and saved me from my sins and has promised to never let me go. My greatest joy is knowing that I belong to Jesus and that I will be with him forever. Amen.

Contentment
Jesus has over and over again taught me about contentment. Not just to be content with what He has given to me, but to be content with Him. Not only to be content with Him, but being absolutely convinced that Jesus really is all that I need. It has been such a freeing truth over the years. That I am free to dream big, that I am free to succeed, and that I am free to fail, but at the end of the day none of those things matter. What matters is that nothing will ever separate me from the love of Christ.

“But Godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into this world and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that.” 1 Timothy 6:6-8

He is sovereign, He is good
Over the last two weeks the Lord has been asking me the same questions over and over again. “Matt, do you believe that I am good? Do you believe that I am sovereign over all things? Do you believe that I want what is best for you, more than you want it yourself?” My answer over and over again has been an emphatic, “Yes Lord, I believe”! I know that the Lord is good. I know that He is for me and not against me. I know He wants me to find my joy and fulfillment in Him alone. I believe He is sovereign over all things. Not just the big things, but every little detail of all things. My position at the company I work for now, as well as the opportunity I had to change positions, are by the sovereign hand of God. It is all God’s grace. All I have is from my Lord Jesus. He has been so faithful these last weeks to comfort me, to change me, to remind me how much I need Him every single day, and to help me believe the things I know to be true about him.

Maybe I wasn’t the best person for the job? Maybe this whole interview process was one the Lord set in motion to grow me in my dependance in Him? Maybe I’m asking the wrong questions? Maybe I need to stop asking so many questions and know that is well and everything is just as it is supposed to be? Ya that sounds about right. I know that I am exactly where I am supposed to be, doing exactly what I am suppose to be doing. Is this where I want to be? It is precisely where I want to be because I want to be exactly where there Lord wants me. So until the Lord leads me in another direction, I am going to press on to remain faithful to what lies in front of me.

“Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. But even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows.” Matthew 10:29-31

I will finish this up with a great quote I “just happened” to listen to yesterday in a podcast that was recorded all the way back in 2006. God’s providence is just too perfect not to share…

“The welfare of our families, the prosperity of our businesses, our work, and service for the lord, may be considered the most important matters to attend to, but according to my judgement, the most important thing that must be attended to is this, above all things to see that your souls are happy in the lord. Other things may press upon you, the lords work may even have claims on your attention, but this pursuit of joy is of most importance.” George Mueller

On October 14th it was announced that Mark Driscoll had resigned as Lead Pastor of Mars Hill Church. Then on November 9th it was announced that Mars Hill Church in Huntington Beach would be dissolving at the end of 2014. These announcements grieved my soul to the core and have left me in tears each and every day. For me, Mars Hill Church wasn’t a church I read about online or gossiped about with people who had never been part of Mars Hill. For the last 3 1/2 years, Mars Hill Church has been my church, my family, and a place where I have experienced so much of God’s grace.

My Experience
While I know that many people have been hurt by Mars Hill Church, and many people have had bad experiences at Mars Hill Church, this just wasn’t my experience. I am certainly not trying to diminish what some people have been through. I believe that the leadership of Mars Hill did sin against many people and my prayer is that at some point there will be repentance and reconciliation for those who have sinned and were sinned against. I wanted to write this to share my experience and have this serve as a reminder and an encouragement for those of us who did not have a bad experience to rightly remember our time at Mars Hill and remember all we saw Jesus do in us, through us, and in our midst. My time at Mars Hill was nothing but a blessing and full of God’s grace.

When I showed up to Mars Hill 3 years ago, I was a broken, prideful, arrogant, poor example of a man claiming to be a follower of Jesus Christ. I had hurt many women that I was in romantic relationships with because of my inability to be a godly man and treat them as they ought to be treated, but God used the preaching of Mark Driscoll and the men of Mars Hill Church to help me see my sin, repent of it, and set my life in a new direction. For this, I am eternally grateful.

I had led various ministries and groups over the years and had become extremely prideful and arrogant, thinking I was God’s gift to the church. When I came to Mars Hill, I was taken aback by the humility of the Pastors and leaders of the church, how they continually pointed me to Jesus, and Jesus humbled me through those men as I watched them lead our church and lead their families. For this, I am eternally grateful.

Prior to coming to Mars Hill, I would have told you I knew the gospel, but it just wasn’t true. Sure, I knew that Jesus had died for all my sins when He was crucified on the cross, but there is so much more. God used Mars Hill Church to help me see that the gospel is the lens in which I must look at everything. That my past, present, and future sins have all been paid for by Jesus on the cross. For this, I am eternally grateful.

The Fruit
I have seen Jesus do miraculous things in the last 3 years, both in my life and in the lives of those around me. Not just people I knew well, but in countless people I didn’t know at all. There was rarely a Sunday gathering, a meeting, or people from church hanging out on the weekends where you wouldn’t hear a story of God’s grace and mercy in someone’s life at Mars Hill. I watched over 100 people get baptized. I watched countless single men in their early 20’s sacrificially serve the church, lead community groups, keep their pants on, and grow in their relationship with Jesus. I watched young men date and marry godly women in a way that honored the Lord and the gal. I watched countless men humbly lead their wives, their children, and our church. It was a beautiful thing to see.

As for me, it is hard to describe all the Lord has done in my life through Mars Hill Church. The gift of confession and repentance was given to me through Mars Hill Church and it had a profound impact on every area of my life. I have grown in my understanding of the gospel in such a way that I don’t know how I ever lived without it. I could literally go on and on with stories of God’s grace and mercy in our little church family in the short 3 1/2 years we were together. Here are two stories I will share. They are two of the greatest things Jesus has done in my life and they both came through the ministry of Mars Hill Church.

One Sunday morning I noticed this stunningly beautiful woman standing at the entrance of the church greeting people as they walked in. I literally couldn’t keep my eyes off of her. I asked a few of the gals at church who she was and quickly realized that this was not just a beautiful woman, but a godly woman who was way out of my league. I was soon introduced to her and found my assumptions to be more than true…. this was the most beautiful and godly woman I had ever met. It took me well over a year to finally get enough courage to ask her out. Her name is Jen and she is now my wife. She is the most godly, beautiful, sweet, and humble woman you will ever meet. I sometimes kick myself in the rear for not asking her out sooner! I mean, what in the world was I waiting for, right? Time and time again, the Lord has been faithful in showing me that I wasn’t ready for marriage. There were so many areas of my life and in my heart that Jesus wanted to do some work. Now I, of course, have not arrived at some pinnacle place in life nor have I been sanctified to the point where I am deserving of my wife… But it was God’s grace that Jesus did a work in me before I ever asked Jen on a date and changed me in the deepest places of my heart before I married her. I am thankful for the way Jesus worked through the men and women of Mars Hill Church to help me prepare for marriage and to better understand the meaning of marriage.

A year and a half ago my little sister fell on hard times. It was really the lowest point of her life, as she had nothing and was going to be living on the streets any day. All she had known was a life of drugs and trying to come up wherever she could. I let her move in with me and began to see her changing for the better almost immediately. A few of the girls in my community group started inviting her out with them and spending time with her. Realistically, this was the first time in a long time that my sister had been away from the drugs and around people who didn’t do them. I could literally see a smile on my sister’s face everyday that I had never seen before. Then while I was on one of my trips to Seattle for school, I got a phone call from my sister that she wanted to get baptized! The girls from my community group took her to church that Sunday and she put her faith in Jesus, then three weeks later I got to baptize my sister! She has been off of drugs ever since and is doing amazing! I am one proud brother to see my sister doing so well and I am so thankful for the grace of God in my sister’s life.

Let Us Remember Gods Grace
My hope in writing this post is that the people of Mars Hill Huntington Beach will rightly remember all we saw Jesus do in the last 3 years. My prayer is that as the months and years pass, we would look back on our time at Mars Hill not as a dark time, but a time where we saw the grace of God on a daily basis. Let us write down for ourselves all we saw Jesus do in our lives and in the lives of those around us. Share it with others from our church, talk about it amongst our families, tell the stories to our kids, talk about it often, praise Jesus for it all… because it was grace upon grace. Most of all, remember that we have a faithful God who sent his Son to save us, bringing us to Himself, and that He is faithful to complete the work He began in us. Amen.

The day I asked Jen to marry me

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The joy of getting to baptize my sister

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Riverside Community Group

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Sending out a dear friend to LA from our community

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Orange community group with 30+ people

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Praying over new leaders as we started 3 new community groups in Orange

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The breakup
Several months ago I was asked why my x-girlfriend and I had broken up. I explained that it wasn’t because of any sin, there was no animosity between us, and that we are actually still friends. Matter of fact, I went on to explain why she was such an amazing girl, but ended with saying that she is an amazing girl for someone else. I had ended the relationship because I felt that our lives were going in different directions and that The Lord had placed much different callings on our lives. The Lord has burdened my heart for cross cultural missions, church planting, and adoption. These are things she had never considered. Not because she was complacent or not a godly woman, but as a single gal, those things are very out of reach and hard to do being single so they were hard to become a reality for her. But at the time, I came to the conclusion that we should break up because of our different passions and callings.

My sin
The truth of the matter is that I was in sin. The most important calling in my life is not to be a missionary, its not to become an adoptive parent, and its not to be a church planter. The highest calling on my life is to make much of Jesus, to be a reflection of his glory to the world, and to worship him in every part of my life. Not only is this my highest calling, its the very thing I was created for. Somehow I had lost sight of that. Instead of worshipping Jesus, I was worshipping what I wanted to do for Jesus. I had placed my desires to be a missionary, a church planter, and an adoptive parent, as more important than fulfilling the very thing I was created for…. to glorify Jesus and make his name great. So when I considered the relationship I was in, I justified breaking it off with her because I wanted a girl who would help me worship doing things for God, instead of worshipping God himself. Although I didn’t realize it at the time, I was in sin against God, and against his daughter.

Repentance and reconciliation
During the same time as my friend having this conversation with me, I was having conversations with my Pastors about planting a church in Riverside and going through the process to become a Pastor. It was in these conversations with my Pastors, being pursued by other leaders in the church, and much time in prayer, that I was able to see how I had lost track of what life was all about…. to worship Jesus and make his name great.
As I came to see things more clearly I became aware of a deep sin I had committed. I had broken up with an amazing girl because of my inability to see what was most important in life. I didn’t use these exact words, but when I broke it off with her I basically told her, “we can’t be together because you are not good enough. I want a girl who is just like me so that I don’t have to make any sacrifices. A girl who will help me worship myself and accomplish all the things I feel The Lord wants me to do”. I was cut to the heart and flat out broken. Broken over the fact that I had sinned against God and sinned against this wonderful woman. I spent weeks in agony over it and literally in tears every single day. I had taken it before The Lord and in his grace and mercy he of course forgave me. I knew I needed to confess my sin to Jen and ask her to forgive me.
I had finally come to a point where I couldn’t handle the weight of my sin against Jen any longer and asked her to meet with me. The day I met up with her was one of the worst days of my life. My stomach was tied in knots, I couldn’t eat, and I was so scatter brained I could barely put a though together. I picked her up and we went to a nearby park where we could talk in private. I shared with her all my sins against God I had come to realize in the weeks prior. Then I confessed to her all of the sins I had committed against her. I let her be honest with me about how I had sinned against her. As she responded I quickly realized that I had caused way more hurt and committed way more sin against her than I could have ever imagined. We both just sat there in tears. Me broken over my sin, and her broken over the hurt I had caused because of my sin. Being the kind, sweet, loving, godly woman that she is, she of course forgave me. I didn’t just meet up with her to confess my sin and ask her to forgive me, I was there to reconcile our relationship. I honestly just can’t imagine life without her. After hours of talking through everything, hours of tears, prayer, and her soft heart, she was kind enough to give me another chance!

A celebration
A few months have now passed by and things have been amazing between the two of us. We have worked through all of the things from our past and things are better than we could have ever imagined. We are closer than ever, there is more trust than ever, and we can both see how Jesus used all of this for good. Not just for our good, but more importantly for his glory. Jen is the most kind hearted, sweet, loving, giving, generous, smart, and God-fearing woman I have ever met. There is simply nothing better than worshipping Jesus with her each and every day. She is truly a gift from The Lord. A few weeks ago I did something I wish I had done a long time ago….. I asked her to marry me and she said yes!!!!!

A love story, not just of Jen and I, but of The Lord for Jen and I
In the title I led you to believe you would read a love story and that is what this is. Not just a love story between Jen and I, but a love story of Jesus relentless pursuit of me. Jen and I were broken up for 8 months before I was able to see my sin. Was The Lord slow to convict me of my sin and lead me to repentance? Of course not! But because of his great love for me, he was patient with me and extended grace to me until I was at a place of repentance. As I look back now I can see how the Holy Spirit was convicting me months ago and how I was being led to repentance the whole time. The gift of confession, repentance, and reconciliation is Gods greatest gift to me as it has allowed me to be engaged to the love of my life, but more importantly it has allowed me to be reconciled to the creator of all things, the giver of life, the example of love and grace…. My Lord Jesus Christ.

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I am madly, deeply, and passionately in love with Jesus. Every morning I wake up thinking about Jesus. As I take in breaths I am thankful to be given another day. I marvel at the fact that I am still alive despite the many times I almost lost my life in my teens and early twenties. I am just overwhelmed at the fact that Jesus would love someone like me and choose someone like me, to be his beloved son. To think that he would give his life, in my place, by being crucified on a cross is just mind blowing. I sometimes think, doesn’t Jesus remember all of the horrible things I’ve done in my life and the horrible things i’m going to do in the future? He not only knows all of the things I’ve done in the past, the things I did today, and the things I will surely do in the tomorrow, but he has forgiven me, for all of it. He has promised me that there is nothing that will separate me from his love for me and there is nothing that can sever my relationship with him! Jesus paid for all of my sins on the cross! I am his son forever! I didn’t do anything to deserve all of this grace!

When I think about all of these things I am brought to my knees in thanksgiving and amazement. What do I do with this great gift the Lord has given to me? Do I just keep on living in sin and go about my life as I did before I knew him? Or do I spend every waking moment of my life relentlessly chasing after Jesus and refusing to leave any part of my life unchanged by the Holy Spirit that lives in me? There is no other option. I am either in or I’m out. Every morning I have to make a decision who I will serve. I must either choose to serve him or choose something else. It’s not an easy decision to follow him. It’s not a one time decision to follow him. It’s thousands of little decisions every single day to follow Jesus. Lucky for me I don’t have to make the decisions on my own. I have God’s Spirit living inside me, teaching me, guiding me and praying to the Lord on my behalf. Oh that I might fully believe the things I know to be true about God, about myself, and my need for Jesus. I need more grace, grace upon grace.

As I pulled up to my last order of the day today, I dreaded getting out of my truck, and wish I had just gone home instead of working overtime. This house is in one of the worst areas in Riverside, on one the worst street in the neighborhood, and the house was super sketchy. Then I was greeted at the gate by a sweet little girl. She had a huge smile and was a ball of energy running all around. As I was working she followed me everywhere I went, asking me all kinds of questions and telling me all about herself. She insisted that I knew that she was 5 years old and that her name is little Jo. She was just the cutest little girl.

Her Grandma (who I thought was her mom) told me about how she has full custody of her granddaughter and had adopted her. You could tell by her body language that it wasn’t under good circumstances. Little Jo called her grandma mommy and not grandma, so I’m assuming her mom isn’t in the picture. Then she began to tell me that her granddaughter only weighed 1 pound when she was born, that she actually had a twin who died at birth, and that she wasn’t expected to live. Little Joe spent the first 3 months of her life in the ICU hooked up to all kinds of tubes. The doctors told her Grandma that if she lived, that she would have scoliosis so bad that she would never walk and that she would have down syndrome. Now I am even more amazed at this little girl. Here is this sweet, running, jumping, smiling little girl who is nothing shy of a miracle. I took a little bit of extra time to talk with her and bounce a ball back and forth with her. I was just amazed at the gift of life as I was playing and talking with her

As I was working inside the house little Jo just followed me around talking up a storm. As sweet as this little girl was, the things she was telling me were making my heart break. She was telling me how her brother told her not to be afraid of the cockroaches all over the house and that she is scared to get bitten by one. She asked if I wanted to hear a story and told me about how her grandpa had recently died. She talked about how she can protect herself if she needs too. Just story after story of horrible things she has seen at such a young age. I had to keep changing the topic to something that would make her smile because I couldn’t take it. This little girl is lucky to be alive, yet her short life had been so painful and she has been through so much already. It just breaks my heart.

Please pray for little Jo and her grandparents. The house they just moved into is a wreck. It is owned by a slumlord who wont make any repairs but it is all they can afford. There is no furniture, the house is in need of lots of repairs, and the cockroach infestation is so bad that they are living in an old motorhome in the driveway. Pray that little Jo can remain strong but retain the innocence of a child. Pray that as she gets older she doesn’t remember the things she seen as a child. Pray that the owner of the home helps this family. Pray that their financial situation gets better so that they don’t have to struggle to have the necessities of life. Pray that little Jo would flourish under the care of her grandparents. Pray that little Joe meets Jesus at a young age and sees her life as the gift from God that it is. Pray she sees her life as God’s grace. Please please please pray for little Jo.

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