Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Discipleship

Posted: January 18, 2014 in Uncategorized

What is discipleship? Is it necessary? How do you get someone to disciple you? These are questions I have wrestled with for years. I can remember when I was 24, a brand new Christian, and I knew I had much to learn. I would look around at the older men in my church, just wishing I could get to know them and learn from them. I had so many questions about the bible, about dating, marriage, how I am suppose to live, and how to know Jesus more. I prayed everyday that Jesus would send a man who would pour into my life. Yet I found myself feeling frustrated and alone for a long time.

As I have been reflecting on some of these questions over the last few months I am seeing how my frustration of not being discipled, was actually the result of my own sin and the lack of my own pursuit of Jesus. As I think through when I felt like I was discipled well, and when I felt like I wasn’t being discipled at all, I kept coming to the same conclusions.

It was all about me
During the times when I felt like I wasn’t being discipled I was only concerned about my well being, what I wanted from others, and what I could get out of relationships with other people. Do you see the common theme? Me me me? As far as I was concerned the church was there to serve my needs, people were in the church to serve me, and Jesus had become my proverbial genie in a bottle where I would ask for all the things I wanted. And when I didn’t get what I wanted from the church, from people, and from Jesus, I was bitter and frustrated because I wasn’t getting what I wanted out my worship of me. I wasn’t serving others, I wasn’t serving in the church, and I didn’t concern myself with anything that I didn’t think would benefit me in some way.

Where was my pursuit of Jesus
As I reflect on the times when I felt that I wasn’t being discipled, one common theme appeared. My own personal pursuit of Jesus was non existent. Here I was wanting someone to disciple me in the ways of The Lord and invest in me, yet I wasn’t willing to put in any effort to knowing Jesus on my own. I was rarely reading my bible, prayer was just a time of asking Jesus for things, and I wasn’t serving the church and putting myself in a place to meet other Godly men. I wanted to be discipled on my terms, instead of on God’s terms. It sounds ridiculous right? I was so concerned about my own needs, yet I did nothing to contribute to the things I so badly wanted. So not only was I extremely self centered, I was lazy. I wanted others to do things for me that I wasn’t willing to do for myself and surely wouldn’t do for others. I was the biggest hinderance to my own personal growth and i’m sure I stunted the growth of those around me by my selfish way of life.

Discipled well
By God’s grace there have been many seasons where I have been discipled well and this has been the case for the last 2-3 years. There have been countless men who have invested years of their own lives to discipling me and investing in my future. They have shown me what it looks like to put others needs before their own, what it looks like to love their families well, what it looks like to sacrificially serve the church, and most importantly what it looks like to be a follower of Jesus Christ. Not only have I gleaned from their wisdom and seen them model how it is a Christian should live, but more importantly they have shown me what to do when I am wandering from The Lord and walking in sin, repent. I have seen them repent to their wives, repent to their children, repent to their communities, and repent to The Lord. I cant even begin to explain how much of a gift this has been to me.

But what was I doing during the time when I was being discipled well? What circumstance of my life was different when I was being discipled well versus when I felt I wasn’t being discipled well? Had Jesus left me to fend for myself and disciple myself during some seasons of my life and not others? Did the church fail to have a discipleship plan in place that would ensure I would be discipled? The answer is no.

First things first. I must first be a disciple of Jesus. Before I can be discipled by anyone, I must be a disciple of Jesus. Lets define a disciple of Jesus as, a person who is growing in their relationship with Jesus through time in the bible and in prayer with Him with a renewing of the mind and heart. During the times of when I have been discipled well I was reading my bible daily and I was giving myself to The Lord in prayer. Not just asking Jesus for things in prayer, but praying for Jesus people, praying for the needs of others, praying for those that don’t know Jesus, and praying for those who have no voice….. or in other words, praying for those who Jesus prayed for. As I was spending time in the bible and in prayer The Lord would convict me of sin in my life, he would lead me to repentance, he would break my heart for the things that break his, he would challenge the way I look at the world, and there would be a literal renewing of my mind and heart that compelled me to live differently. As I was reading and praying I began to see how incredibly sinful I am and I came to the realization that all I really know, is that I don’t know that much. This is where I pursued the men Jesus had placed in my life and discipleship occurred. As I was being discipled by Jesus and convicted by the Spirit that lives inside of me, I was discipled by those I was in community with as I shared with them what The Lord was doing in my own heart. Discipleship has to first start with Jesus.

Should the older men in the church pursue the younger men in the church to show them the ways of The Lord? Yes. Should younger men in the church find younger men than themselves and show them the ways of The Lord? Yes. It is clear in scripture that we should all be disciples, making disciples. But above and before everything… I must be a disciple of Jesus. Everything comes after that and flows out of that place as a disciple of Jesus. Man has nothing to offer me other other than to tell me about Jesus, to point me to Jesus, to preach the gospel to me, and call me to repentance in my sin against Jesus. I need Jesus! Im not saying that this is the only way discipleship should happen. But this is what it looked like for me. One thing I can tell you for sure though. Discipleship starts with being a disciple of Jesus. Thank you Daniel Garcia, Steve Zietlow, Matt Wallace, Tyson Loveless and John Corrigan. You and your wives have continually blessed me and poured into my life in so many ways. Thank you for pursuing me and letting me bring things to you that i’m wrestling with. Thank you for taking discipleship seriously, not just in discipling me, but letting me see you be a disciple of Jesus. Thank you for letting me see you humbly lead your family’s and our church. Thank you for letting me see you walk in repentance. Thank you for being a reflection of Jesus and always pointing me to Jesus. I am eternally grateful for all of you and for everyone else over the years who has poured into my life, prayed for me, and pointed me to Jesus.

I am a member of Mars Hill Church in Huntington Beach but live in Riverside. The church is about an hour drive and 45 miles away from my home. It is a far drive but I am certain that this is the church Jesus has called me to be part of. I have been there since the church launched 2 1/2 years ago and Jesus has been faithful in confirming that I am right where I am supposed to be over and over again.

Jesus was faithful in gathering a group of people at Mars Hill Church who all live in the Riverside area. We have been meeting as a community group for about 18 months and it has been so life giving. I can remember when the closest community group to my home was all the way in Fullerton and it was so difficult to be in community and really known by anyone. I thank God everyday for all of the people he has placed in my life and allowed me to live in community with. They have spoken into my life more times than I can count, they have given me great advice on singleness and dating, I have gleaned things from their marriages that have changed my life, and I have watched them parent their children with grace and love. Needless to say, the community that Jesus has put into my life has been one of the greatest gifts Jesus has ever given to me.

Our community has gotten to the point where we no longer fit in a living room and have been in need of a new location to meet. Another struggle we have had is the difficulty of being on mission where we live when our church is so far away. How can we be faithful to the mission Jesus has given to us in the bible, while living 45 miles away? As a community we began to pray and ask The Lord to give us direction and a vision for what we are to do.

Jesus gave us a vision that was huge and to be honest I don’t see how it can possible happen. Jesus put it in our hearts that we should be in downtown Riverside so that we could be in the community that we live in. Our prayer was that it would be a place that we would have opportunities to meet the people that work, live and hang out downtown. We want to build relationships with the business owners, be a blessing to them, and pray that their businesses flourish. We pray it would be a place where we could make disciples, train up new leaders, and send them out to plant new groups. Our biggest prayer is that people would meet Jesus.

Two weeks ago The Lord put it on my heart that it was time to go seek out a new location. I got to downtown Riverside at about 8 o’clock in the morning and spent the next 9 hours walking around praying for businesses, praying for people, talking with business owners, and seeking out a location for our group to meet. It was late in the day and I had no luck finding a location and was ready to give up for the day. I found myself joyful and not discouraged, but really wishing I had found a location. Just as I began to walk back to my truck I saw a building that I hadn’t gone inside of yet so I figured I would at least check it out.

The building is a huge 3 story 100 year old brick building where they rent out spaces for anything from art shows to quinceaneras. I knew it would be an expensive place to rent but it would be a perfect location. I went inside and talked to the property manager and as soon as I told him what I was looking for he jumped right up and told me he has the perfect space. The space is perfect! It is right on the corner with huge windows that open out to the street. We would have our own private entrance. But I knew we wouldn’t be able to afford it. Sure enough he told me the cost and there was no way we could afford it. I mean I was actually looking for a place for free! The rent was literally more than most peoples car payments. My heart literally dropped because I knew this space was perfect. He then proceeded to tell me that he would make me an awesome deal because he really wanted to give the space to us. Lets just say that he offered me the space at a small fraction of the normal cost! I couldn’t believe it!

Over the next two weeks I prayed everyday for the building. Then after talking it over with the other leaders in the Riverside group and our Pastor we agreed that the building is perfect and we were given the green light. I went back to the property on Tuesday to make sure the space was still available and it was! I started talking with the property manager and he was so excited I came back. Come to find out he and the owner of the building had been talking about how they wished a Christian group would rent out a space in the building. Apparently there are several different groups that use the building of all different religions, there is a gym in the basement, tenants live in studios upstairs, and tons of artists use the building for all kinds of different things. Well the management would love to see community and relationships between all the different people that use the building, which is the very thing we had been praying for! Then he offers to let us use their chairs, tables, kitchen, bottled water, and anything else they have for free! I just couldn’t believe all this was happening. Just as I was leaving the manager told me that he felt this was all meant to be, I agreed it was an answered prayer, and I pray he meets Jesus and sees that it was an answered prayer and not a great coincidence.

On Tuesday I signed a 6 month lease for our new building! It is located in the Life and Arts building on the corner of University and Lime. It is 1 block from the Mission Inn and 1 block from Main Street where there are plenty of places to eat and get coffee. We are on the second floor right in the corner space. Check out the pics at the bottom of this post. The address is 3485 University ave in Riverside. Everyone is welcome including kiddos. We will be meeting on Tuesday nights at 6:30 started in January. Typically we have a discussion about Sundays sermon and have time for prayer, but thats definitely not all we do. Its really whatever the Spirit leads us to do which could be a night of prayer, a night of worship, a discussion about who knows what, or going downtown and having dinner together. If you have any questions feel free to contact me about anything. Here is a brief explanation of what a community group is.

The easiest way I’ve found to describe what a community group is starts by sharing first what it isn’t.

1. We aren’t a Bible study. We love the Bible. We will study the Bible. We will share Scripture with each other and live by the Word. But a Bible Study is not what we are ultimately about.

2. We aren’t a fellowship group. We love to hang out as you can tell from the meal that we just shared. But fellowship is not what we are ultimately about.

3. We aren’t a care group. We care about each other. We will help each other walk through difficult times. We will counsel and love each other. But a care group is not what we are ultimately about.

4.  We aren’t a small group. This isn’t a logistical group designed so you can have “large” church on Sunday and attend “small” church during the week. It is nice to have a smaller group of people to connect with when being part of a large church like Mars Hill. But a small group is not what we are ultimately about.

So what are we about? We are here for Jesus. This group is a family that is centered around and focused on Jesus. We find our identities in Jesus. We worship Jesus with our all of our lives. We live in community around Jesus, and we are on mission to share the gospel of Jesus.

Therefore, we will ask hard questions of each other, love each other, laugh with each other, and push each other to be closer to Jesus. A community group is a family that is all about Jesus.

Please join me in prayer. Pray we build relationships with the people in the building. Pray we would build relationships with the nearby relationships. Pray that this would be a location where people meet Jesus and become disciples of Jesus.

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A tidbit from the book of James

Posted: October 20, 2013 in Uncategorized

When I think about how I respond to people sharing their hardships, struggles and life circumstances. I’m realizing the importance of giving the gospel and through the lens of the cross. When I share wisdom I think I may have, based on what I have experienced in life or in the things I think I have learned, it just points to me, not to Jesus. Everything should always point to Jesus. When I try to share my own wisdom I am doing a horrible job of serving the people around me. I am not actually trying to help, I’m trying to sound wise and make much of myself. When I don’t give the gospel, I’m basically telling Jesus that what He did on the cross wasn’t sufficient and that I need to add to it, then it will be good enough to help a person in their hardship or in the situation in which they are seeking counsel. When I fail to share the gospel I am just revealing the jealousy and selfish ambition that exists in my heart. Wisdom that doesn’t come from the Lord is unspiritual and demonic. It causes disorder and every vile practice. Every day I’m realizing more and more, that all I know is that I really don’t know that much. But I know the gospel. Oh Lord let it be the only thing that comes out of my heart and out of my mouth. Not just in when I am speaking to others but when I am speaking to myself. 

James 3:13-18

My life flipped upside down

Posted: August 29, 2013 in Uncategorized

I am taking a Re:train class on discipleship and it has really turned every part of my life upside down. I have heard what was taught in the class many times from reading Resurgence books, listening to sermons and being part of the leadership team at Mars Hill Church. I came into the class knowing I was going to be challenged but I thought it would be in small ways that would help me “clean up the tough edges” or be a good refresher. Yet I found myself convicted the entire week and since I have been back home it seems that all i’ve been doing is repenting to Jesus, repenting to those I serve along side, and I still have several people I need to repent to.

I love Jesus and I love people. I love those in the church and those outside the church. I love spending time with people, getting to know people at the deepest level, and I love to be known by others. Yet I have failed miserably to be in relationships with others and be known by more than a few men. I have taken on so many responsibilities in the church, on top of my normal job, on top of taking care of my family, that I have left most relationships just hanging on by a thread. I am convicted of how I only spend time with my family if they let me know they are getting together far enough in advance that I can fit them into my calendar. I am convicted of how I am training my apprentices off of a to do list by giving them tasks without investing into my relationship with them. I am convicted of how I coach the community group leaders that I lead by just being there for them when they need me or when we are having a meeting, instead of coaching them through a healthy relationship where we are making spiritual deposits to one another in love. I am convicted of the lack of quality alone time I spend with Jesus. I have been so busy the last few months that everything has become a to-do list. I have been leading in my own strength for far to long. Instead of doing things with God, I have been doing things for God.

Since I returned home two weeks ago I have handed off some of my responsibilities and I am in the process of straightening out my priorities. This of course started off by spending quality time in my prayer closet talking to Jesus and its been so life giving. By God’s grace Jesus has been faithful in his pursuit of my heart when I wasn’t pursuing his, He was faithful in pouring out his grace on my life when I wasn’t giving much grace to others, and He was faithful in making disciples when I wasn’t being a very good disciple.

I am blown away by the grace of God in my life. I will never understand why a perfect and all knowing God would save someone like me but I know a gift when I see one. I know it’s a gift because I did nothing to earn the right to be called a son of God, I did nothing to be deserving of his love, and I did nothing to deserve the gift of getting to spend eternity in heaven with Jesus. Thank you Jesus for your love and kindness. Thank you Jesus for your faithfulness and steadfastness. Thank you Jesus for bringing me out of the darkness and into the light. Thank you Jesus for saving me and giving me a new life.

I woke up this morning just overwhelmed by the generosity of Jesus through His people. A few months ago when they first started announcing that Re:train Re:train website check it out was starting soon I knew I wanted to go. I took it to The Lord in prayer and I got a clear answer of YES! I was so excited to get to attend the classes but almost immediately realized that I really can’t afford it. But i knew that the Lord told me yes, so I applied and was accepted. My buddy John from Mars Hill also found himself in the same situation. He knew The Lord was telling him to go but didn’t know where the money was going to come from. In faith he also applied and was accepted.

Two weeks ago we get an email from one of the admins in Seattle telling us that a family is going to let us stay at their house the entire time free of charge! Praise Jesus! This saved us a ton of money. Then 3 days ago the same family decided to postpone selling their extra car so that we could use it while we Were in Seattle. Praise Jesus! Yet again, this saved us a ton of money that we really didn’t have to spend.

My buddy John was going to meet up with a lady from Mars Hill in Seattle to buy an Apple laptop from her. She was selling it for $600 dollars but agreed to sell it to him for $400 to help him out, knowing that he needed it for retrain. John was stoked she was going to sell it for so cheap. Yesterday morning when we arrived to pick it up, the lady gives it to him for free! She prayed about it the night before and she said that Jesus told her to give it to him. John is tearing up. He calls his wife and she spent the morning crying. When I thought things couldn’t get crazier, we find out that the lady who gave him the laptop is in the midst of her own financial hardship. Her husband lost his job and she is now working 2 jobs to help make ends meet. She needs the money but still found herself knowing that she was suppose to give the laptop away.

I’m just overwhelmed by the generosity of Jesus through the hands of His people. The people of Mars Hill have been so generous. We are able to be generous because Jesus has been so generous to use. He gave us the most amazing gift of salvation and He has blessed up more than we could have ever imagined. Lets be a people marked by our love and generosity. Not because we have to, but because we get too. We get to be a generous people because we have a generous God. We get to be a generous people because of what Jesus did on the cross on our place. In Jesus we have more than we could ever ask for.

A poem

Posted: June 8, 2013 in Uncategorized

This poem describes my life when I had first met Jesus. I was 22 and just began going to church. Jesus had been revealing Himself to me and I knew He was real. I wanted to be closer to Him. I wanted to know Him. I wanted to be close to His church. I went to church several times a week to learn as much as I could and hope that I could meet some new people. Unfortunately not even one person would talk to me or have anything to do with me for almost 2 years. So many times I felt like walking away but God has been faithful and never let me go.

There are these moments
I am overtaken by fear
The thought of being alone
Has my life become a waste

I lay staring at the walls
Wondering what is the point
I thought I had found love
Why do I feel so much pain

Something is missing
Things just don’t feel right
The thoughts in my mind
Don’t line up with my heart

I looked into the stars
With nothing but indifference
The universe so spectacular
Why is my life so insignificant

It was stirring inside me
The thought of playing a part
My life being held captive
I didn’t know where to start

Most of my time spent wandering
It was as though I was alone
Maybe I had found my destination
I just wanted to feel at home

Thousands of people I see
My heart wasn’t at ease
It was like you didn’t see me
I felt like I had a disease

I just wanted you to see me
At least act like you care
I know my life is a mess
You don’t know the burdens I bear

There is so much inside me
I just want to share
Collecting my thoughts
I feel nothing but despair

What is the purpose
What is the point
I was lost now i’m found
See the image I paint

I once hid in the darkness
I now live in the light
I will fear no evil
I will put up the good fight

Jesus Christ saved me
from myself and this world
Forever He will keep me
This He promises in His word

Community

Posted: February 18, 2013 in Uncategorized

Community is one of the most life giving things I have ever experienced. The unfortunate thing is that many people think that just spending time with other people is considered community. I hear people talk about how important fellowship is and it’s true. The problem is that the words community and fellowship have become so distorted. Just because you spend time with people at church on Sunday and at some sort of mid week gathering from your church does not mean you live in community or are in fellowship with those people. I lived under these distortions for years and I missed out on so much.

Over the last year and a half I have for the first time experienced real life giving community. Yes I see the people I am closest with on Sundays, yes I serve along side of them on Sundays, yes I see them at community group during the week but those are not the things that define the fact that I am in community with those people. When we look at the model of the early church it was much different than how we live our lives. They didn’t live compartmentalized lives where they had different groups of friends for different aspects of their lives. They lived life together and spent everyday with one another. For example, for myself, I would have a few guys I would talk with when I wanted to talk about global missions stuff, I had two guys from other church’s I would talk to when I had theological questions, one guy I would talk to when I was seeking dating advise and a group of other guys I spent time with when doing my hobbies. Don’t get me wrong I love those people and they have been a huge blessing to me over the years. The problem is that I was robbing myself and others by not living every aspect of my life with the same group of my people. It allowed me to hide my own sins, I never confessed anything, repentance was something I had only talked about but never done myself, I was not fully known by anyone and I believe it gave me a distorted view of who God was.

To put it best, community can only be experienced by living life together with one another. Since coming to Mars Hill Church in August of 2011 I have experienced real community for the first time. I can remember feeling like I was bothering my first community group leader and his family because I seen them so much. I spent most of my time with them at church, I was with their kids when I was serving in children’s ministry, I went to dinner with them after church, I was the first person to community group and I was the last person to leave. I got to know them so well and was so blessed by them. I got to see how they parent their children, I got to see their deep love for one another, their love for the church, their love for the lost and their devotion to the community in which Jesus had placed them. For the first time in my life I was known. I had exposed every part of my life to this family. Deep inside I had a fear of being rejected but all I received was love and kindness. I haven’t been in their community group for over a year but I am still extremely close with them. I call them mom and pops. Their parents got me an easter present last year that had “to our grandson” on it. This is love. This is family. They have reflected the image of God to me in ways that I never thought were possible. There are certain sections of scripture that describe who God is, who He says we are and how He view us. I have always understood them at an intellectual level but they became real to me as they reflected God’s image as I lived life with them. They will never understand the impact they have had on my life that will last for eternity. Thank you Steve and Gina Zeitlow for being such a blessing to me, putting up with my constant antics and smart remarks. Thank you for allowing me to be a part of your lives. Thank you for being a reflection of God the father, Jesus and the Holy Spirit.

Shortly after being in their community group we had grown too large and launched a new group in Diamond Bar. Within a few months we had grown too large again and started another group at my house in Riverside. Along the way I have been so blessed by so many people. Once we started the group at my house I was really allowed to experience community at a new level because I was now able to live life with people that actually lived near me. When we first started the group we shared our testimonies and it really brought us close together. As we began to grow together as a family I began seeing things differently and was given a new perspective on so many things. I exposed myself time and time again only to be loved in return, I watched others expose themselves only to be loved on, I watched men confess their deepest sins and constant struggles, we laid hands on one another in prayer and we began living life together. As a single guy who knows all the scriptures on marriage in theory, I had never seen what marriage looks like practically. I had never seen a marriage that was centered on Jesus lived out before my own eyes. I didn’t know what it looked like to raise children in the ways of the Lord. By God’s grace I have had so many examples of God honoring marriages and children being brought up in the ways of the Lord. Their marriages reflect the image of God in ways that I would have never understood had God not brought them into my life. I am not saying that all their marriages are perfect but what I am saying is that I got to see glimpses of how God loves me when I seen men love and lead their families. The biggest thing I learned wasn’t what the right answer is to everything or what to do in certain situations. The biggest thing I learned is what to do when I sinfully do the wrong thing. Repentance and time with Jesus is everything. Thank you Daniel and Megan Garcia for pouring so much life into me. I can’t even imagine not having the two of you in my life. Thank you Nollan and Rhianna Obena for opening your home, cooking for me, letting me see what it looks like to raise children in the ways of the Lord and constantly pouring so much life into me. Thank you Nate and Beth King for letting me see you demonstrate your faith as you tried to get pregnant, for letting me see your zeal for the Lord, for giving me a beautiful picture of what marriage can be and I can’t wait to see your daughter grow up in the ways of the Lord. I could literally sit here all day typing about how I have been blessed by those I am in community with. I have been so blessed by every single person in my community group and those I spend time with at church. There are many areas I can grow in my devotion to my community. There things I am sure I haven’t experienced yet. By God’s grace my hate for sin will increase every day, my devotion to life revolving around me will dissolve and day by day I will strive to life my life by God’s word.

I want to encourage you to find a church that preaches the bible and holds the bible as their highest authority. Serve the church you call home with all of your heart withholding nothing. Give generously. Be known in your church and in your community. Expose every part of your life and let them speak truth and love into it. Repent frequently. Live life with the people Jesus has placed into your life. Living life with people is messy and tough but it is such a blessing. Not only will you be blessed but you will be a blessing to others. Here are a few scriptures that have helped me along the way. Enjoy!

Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. Let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near. Hebrews 10:23-25

All the believers devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching, and to fellowship, and to sharing in meals, and to prayer. Acts 2:42

What good fellowship we once enjoyed as we walked together to the house of God. Psalm 55:14

Don’t forget to show hospitality to strangers, for some who have done this have entertained angels without realizing it. Hebrews 13:3

So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other. Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples. John 13:34-35

Don’t just pretend to love others. Really love them. Hate what is wrong. Hold tightly to what is good. Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honoring each other. Romans 12:9-10

Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too. Philippians 2:4

CG Christmas card

cg group pic

praying for natalie

My attempt to be a blessing

Posted: February 9, 2013 in Uncategorized

My church is in the middle of a sermon series through the book of Ephesians with most of the focus on our identity’s being in Christ. As part of this series we have been given practical ways in which we can take the things Jesus has done for us and do those things for others. This weeks sermon was titled “I am blessed”. Pastor Mark preached from Ephesians 1:3-14 and outlined how Jesus has given us the blessing of holiness, adoption, predestination, redemption, forgiveness, love and grace. This weeks exercise was to bless someone without expecting anything in return, not even a thank you.

I went to Starbucks this morning and bought a $20 gift card and asked the cashier to use the card to cover the bill for the next customers in line until the card runs out. I asked him not to tell anyone I had done this and I planned on just sitting and watching people respond as they were blessed with free coffee. Here are a few questions that we were given as part of the exercise.

1. Does your satisfaction change based on whether you are thanked or not?
2. Is it harder or easier to bless a stranger than someone you know? Why?
3. Was it difficult to contribute money to blessing a stranger?
4. What reactions surprised you the most as you watched people receive free coffee?
5. Think through and journal about how this experience helped you understand the character or God in a deeper way.

I sat down and started working on some homework but kept my ears open so that I could hear what customers would say after the cashier told them the coffee was free. The problem was that he was still charging customers and not using the gift card. About 10 minutes later he walked over to me to clarify what he wanted me to do with the card. I explained it to him again and he returned to the register to help the customers in line. I thought to myself ok here we go he is going to start using the card. I sat intently listening wanting to make sure I heard how the customers were going to respond. The problem was that he still wasn’t using the gift card! I sat there asking myself, what the heck why isn’t he using the gift card. The Lord convicted me at that very moment about how I was still seeking some satisfaction out of blessing others with free coffee. Although I wasn’t going to get a thank you, I still wanted the satisfaction of seeing how they respond and seeing a smile on their face. At a moment when all I wanted to be was a blessing my wicked heart still wanted to receive some sort of satisfaction. I started asking myself why I was bothered that he hadn’t started using the gift card? Have their been other times in my life when I thought I was blessing others wanting nothing in return but in reality still expecting something in return? Do I truly grasp all Jesus has blessed me with?

The truth is that Jesus has blessed every part of my life. He has blessed me in the things He has given me, as well as the things He has taken away. Because Jesus is Holy, I am Holy. He chose me before time began. He has adopted me into his family which makes me a son of God. I have been redeemed because Jesus paid the price for my sins. Because my sins are no longer help against me I am no longer condemned to hell and separated from God for eternity. I just love how I played no part in all the blessings Jesus has given to me. Knowing I would be a wicked, self serving, lying, cheating, evil and a rebellious man Jesus still chose me, adopted me, redeemed me, paid the price for me and loved me. If you didn’t notice, By His grace He chose to bless me in all those ways before I was born and knowing I would be such a sinful man! Wow really? Why would Jesus do that? Why would anyone do that? The answer is simply, yet powerfully, by His grace alone. Thank you Jesus for choosing to save me despite my wicked heart and constant rebellion against you. Thank you Jesus for a new life, for a new heart, for a new set of desires and for your Holy Spirit that convicts me, leads me and guides me. Please help me to be a blessing and freely give as you have so freely given to me.

Freely you have received, freely give. Matthew 10:8

Who am I?

Posted: January 19, 2013 in Uncategorized

The world has always told me that I am what I own. That somehow I can project a certain image based on the things that I own. Culture tells me that if I dress a certain way or act a certain way I can become who I want to be…. or at least who others want me to be. Maybe if I just accomplish this, earn this degree, live in this neighborhood, get this job, get this girl…… then I will become who i’ve always envisioned myself becoming. We look at people and make a decision about who they are based on their ethnicity, their appearance or their socioeconomic status. But how can you be defined by something that in a sense has nothing to do with you? Did we choose our race? Our heritage? Our parents income or educational background? Our physical appearance? The circumstances of my life? The struggles and hardships I have experiences in life? How can those things define who I am? Yet I spent the first 22 years of my life chasing after everyone of those things trying to find out who I was.

Who I thought I was

I spent my entire childhood wishing I was someone else. Wishing I lived in a different neighborhood, a different house, wearing different clothes, with a different kind of car in the driveway, ultimately hating everything about what I thought defined who I was. I spent many years of my childhood with headphones on trying to block out everything going on around me. All I ever wanted to do was ride my bike and play baseball because those were the things I was good at. I was validated on the ball field. Matt you are such a good ball player, Matt you hit the ball so hard, Matt we need you to come through. I lived for those moments.

Throughout high school I so badly wished I could change the circumstances of my life. I hated everything about my life. The circumstances of my life made me despise who I was. To cover up all the things I hated about my life I became a habitual liar. I created an entire new identity based on who I wanted to be and who others said I should be. It was all lies. One, after another, on top of another. If you asked me who I was, I would have told you the most elaborate made up story that you ever heard. I would have told you that I was happy and loved my life…. only because I had lied for so many years that I had convinced myself that the lies were true. The reality is that I was trapped in the lies, wishing i could become the person I talked about, laying in bed at night wondering if life would ever get better.
From age 13 all the way into my early 20′s I lived a life of secrecy. I did everything I could to make my life appear as though I had it all together. That I had an awesome life. My life was consumed with drinking, partying and women. I would put on a front that I had it all together. I moved out on my own when I was 17 and always threw big party’s. When I would go out I made sure everyone seen that I was spending lots of money. I Spent thousands of dollars trying to build the coolest off road truck. The sad part is that I only did it to make people think that I had it all together, that I had become someone and try to make people wish they were me. The result was 15k in credit card debt, almost having my truck repossessed, no job and no place to live. I had hit rock bottom. Then I met Jesus and He changed everything!

Who God says I am
God makes some profound promises to us in the scriptures.

We have been justified (Romans 5:1)
We are sons and daughters of God (John 1:12)
We are free from condemnation (Romans 8:1-2)
We are complete in Christ (Colossians 2:9-10)
We cannot be separated from the love of God (Romans 8:28)
We have been chosen by God and adopted as his children(Ephesians 1:3-8)
We have been bought with a price and belong to God (1 Corinthians 6:19-20)
We have been redeemed and forgiven of all of our sins (Colossians 1:13-14)

These promises blow my mind! I have been justified before God because I have faith in Jesus! Thats means I am blameless in the sight of God regardless of what i’ve done in the past or what I do in the future! I am Gods beloved son because I believe in Jesus! Because of my faith in Jesus I am no longer condemned! That means that even though I am sinful by nature and rebel against God on a daily basis it doesn’t change how He feels about me! Because of Christ I have all that I need and lack nothing! Jesus loves me unconditionally and nothing will ever change that! God chose me before the foundation of the world even though he knew I was going to be a liar, a cheater, a blasphemer and rebel against Him! My life has been purchased by God when He sent His son Jesus to pay for all of my sins! I have been redeemed and Jesus no longer holds my sins against me!
This is the best new any person could ever hear. This means I can no longer view myself based on the circumstances of my life and the things I have done. My identity os solely found in Jesus, what He has done for me and how He views me. I am no longer the poor kid who wished he had a different life, I am the kid who has lived a life of abundance. I am no longer the guy who had to make up stories about his life to make it sound more interesting, I am the guy who thanks God for every moment he allows me to enjoy. I am a son of the most high God. I have been given the righteousness of Jesus who never sinned. When this life is over I will spent eternity in heaven worshiping God.

What does all this mean
At church this last Sunday I was reminded of how Jesus has changed my identity….or to put it a better way showed me my true identity. I am not an ex binge drinker, I am not a guy who used to be a womanizer and I am not the guy who needs sympathy because of my childhood. I no longer find my identity in my sufferings, my short comings, my achievements or my hard work. The circumstances of my life and the things i’ve done may tell you about me but they do not define me. I once was lost and now I have been found. I am a sinner saved by God’s grace. Jesus paid the price for my sins He no longer holds then against me and he relinquished his right to hold them against me because he forgave me. Jesus has forgiven me of my past sins, current sins and the sins I will commit in the future. I wish I could tell you that I will never sin again but that would be a lie. What I can tell you is that by God’s grace my hate for sin increases everyday.

I wanted to end this with a few quotes from Pastor Mark Driscoll’s sermon last week that left me convicted and encouraged. Take the time to dig into each one of them and I pray that you will find the hope and Jesus promises us.

– “If you don’t know who you are, you won’t know what to do”
– “Your identity effects your destiny”
– “You don’t have to search, choose or work for your identity. Jesus already took care of that for you, all you have to do is have faith and believe Him”
– “Our identity is not earned it is received”
– “You are not more valuable or less valuable than anyone else. We all bear the image of God”

Heres the link to the sermon: http://marshill.com/media/who-do-you-think-you-are/i-am-____ 

 

My sin
I am driven. I have goals for what I want to accomplish in the next month, the next year, the next 3 years and the next 5 years. I push the limits of how much I can physically and mentally handle every day. Most of us know what it is like to grind things out for few weeks when we have a lot to do but I do it 365 days a year. I work hard, my work ethic is second to none, I do everything I can to help every person possible and I strive to live a life that is fruitful in every way. I rarely rest or take any time for myself. At times I am horrible at maintaining healthy friendships because I am so busy doing things for people that I never do things with people. I have an amazing family, I have the best friends anyone could ask for and I have an amazing church yet I feel distant from them at times. The worst part is that I find myself at times so busy doing things for God, that I forget to do things with God. It breaks my heart and as I write this I am seriously destroyed over it.

Where it started
I grew up very poor. I can vividly remember just wanting there to be food in the fridge and clothes that weren’t falling apart. I can remember stealing clothes from stores as a kid so that I wouldn’t get made fun of in school. I wished my house was nicer and in a better neighborhood. I was always so envious of what everybody else had. Every single one of my childhood friends were in jail by the time we were teenagers. Many of them have had serious drug over doses that have left them mentally not all there. Some I haven’t seen in years but hear stories about them that bring me to tears. I wanted a different life. I refused to be ok with how things were.
I graduated high school in June of 2001 at age 17. Within a month I had found a good job, I bought a new truck and moved out on my own. Over the next 4 years I would become the most prideful arrogant prick you have ever met. I prided myself in what I had, what I had accomplished, how much better I was doing than most of my friends and what direction my life was going in. I began to lie about everything and make things seem even better than they were. I always made a point of it to tell people how much money I was making and how good I was doing. Somehow because of the way I grew up it made me despise my past and do everything possible to cover it up. I had no sympathy on people who were in similar situations. My past just fueled my ambition to become someone. I had created this entire image of how I wanted people to view me and it was disgusting.

Where it changed
Seven years ago I met a girl who invited me to church and it would change my life forever. I thought I was going to church to hook up but what actually happened is I met Jesus and He changed my life. I have always prided myself in what I have accomplished in life….. but Jesus showed me that it wasn’t my doing at all, it was all by His grace. I judged others by the mistakes they have made in life, when in fact I had made those same mistakes and by By God’s grace I made it out of them. On multiple occasions I should have died but Jesus decided to save me…. not only from this world but from myself. Just the simple fact that I have a healthy body and mind that works is a gift from God.

How this all came about
Two weeks ago I met with my Pastor and he recommended that I read a book called “Jesus + Nothing = Everything”, written by Tullian Tchividjian. He explained to me why he wanted me to read the book but when I got home I found myself not fully understanding why he wanted me to read the book. The title of the book is literally a phrase I have used for as long as I can remember. I felt that if anyone knew Jesus + nothing = everything, it was me. But I was sure there was a good reason so I got the book that same day and began to read it.
As I started reading the book I began to see things differently. I was seeing God’s truths and how I had been straying from them the last few months. I began to see how I wasn’t finding my worth in Jesus and what He has done for me, I was finding it in how hard I worked. I wasn’t finding my rest in Jesus, I was finding it in how many hours a night I slept. Somehow I was seeing all these needs in my community group and in my church and somehow thought I could fix all of them if I worked hard enough. When I felt myself not being as close to God as I wanted to be, I would work harder to serve those around me and do more “good things” instead of spending time with Jesus. At the end of each day I would decide wether or not it was a good day based on how much I was getting done instead of the fact that by God’s grace I was able to live another day. In fact I would say that many days a good saying for my life was actually Jesus + Something = Everything.
This book reminded me of so many things that I so desperately needed to hear. I am a sinner. By myself I can do nothing to become blameless in God’s eyes. I was condemned. But thanks be to God that He sent Jesus to die in my place and pay the price for my sins. I am no longer condemned! I no longer have to try to do good things to try to please God! The only thing I did to contribute to Jesus saving me was the sins I committed that made it necessary to need a savior! My worth is not found in how hard I work, it’s found in the fact that I am a son of God saved by His grace! How rested I feel is not found in how many hours I sleep, it’s found in the fact that Jesus lives inside of me and gives me all the strength I need even when I feel like I have none! My community group and churches health is not dependent on how much I do, Its based on the fact that they belong to Jesus and are led by Jesus! I can’t save anyone. I can’t fix everything. I am not fully responsible for every person I know. Who do I think I am, God? My responsibility is to be faithful to what he allows me to do, to point people to Him, to bring glory to His name in all that I do and tell people how badly they need Him! There is no good thing I can do to get closer to Jesus. He lives inside of me and is always with me!
Over the last week I have been reminded over and over again that Jesus is all that I need. I’m making some major changes in my life so that I can spend quality time with Jesus, to read His word, to spend quality time with the people I care about the most, i’m resting each day and taking some time for myself. Im certain Jesus isn’t done with me yet. I have a long way to go. Luckily there is never going to a day when I am perfect or doing everything right…..its a glorious reminder of how much Jesus + Nothing = Everything because He is all I need! Thank you Pastor Nick for being one of men in my life who constantly points me to Jesus.

because Jesus was strong for me, I was ok to be weak;
because Jesus won for me, I was free to lose;
because Jesus was someone, I was free to be no one;
because Jesus was extraordinary, I was free to be ordinary;
because Jesus succeeded for me, I was free to fail.

Tullian Tchividjian