Posts Tagged ‘gospel’

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

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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

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.

I wanted to share what the Lord taught me a few weeks ago when I arrived at the gym for my morning swim. Please give me lots of grace as I would like to be honest about the details of what happened and what He taught me. I hope you get a glimpse of Gods heart, his love, and his mercy.

As I walked to the pool, I got to the entry gate at the same time as another woman. Because of where the bars are located on the gate I couldn’t see her face. All I seen was her body from the neck down in a 2 piece bathing suit and it really threw me off. In my mind I immediately thought “wow this girl has an amazing body”. As I walked to the pool I was disgusted by my thoughts and couldn’t believe what had just happened.

As I began to swim the Lord began to show me the difference between love and lust. He played this lustful moment back in front of me, almost like I was watching a movie. I was completely disgusted by what went through my mind as I looked at her but I realized that as soon as I had walked away from the gate I had completely forgotten about her. He told me “That was lust not love”.

He began to teach me what love looks like. Jesus asked me, “Do you know how I know you love me?” He proceeds to tell me that he knows I love Him because when I encounter Him, I continue to think about him after I leave his presence. That I don’t just come to him when I want something, I just want him. And after I get what I was asking him for or spend time with him, I don’t walk away and forget about him. He reminds me how I wake up in the morning thinking about him, I think about Him all day long and I go to bed thinking about Him. I am in constant pursuit of Him and do everything I can to be in his presence daily. All I can think about is being with him. In those moments when I feel as though I am far from him all I can think about is how much I miss him and that I will do anything and everything to see his face and be near to him.

My hope and prayer is that I might love the things he loves. As my love deepens for the things he loves, I pray that my heart doesn’t lust after things that aren’t from him. My prayer is that my love for sin would decrease, and that my love for Jesus would increase. Im asking The Lord for a deeper love for his church and for his people. Not a love of what I can get from them, but a love for them because they are his. I want to see their value not in what I can get from them, but see their value in the great lengths by which Jesus went to save them…. death on a cross. I want to be so connected to him that my heart has no other options but to change. Not just for my heart to have a larger capacity to love, but for my heart to break for the things that break his. If The Lord blesses me with a wife I want to be so in love with her that she is the only woman I ever think about. Just like what The Lord told me earlier, I want to walk away from her and not be able to stop thinking about her for the rest of my life. When I see any other woman or think about another woman, I want to forget those lustful thoughts as fast as they came into my mind. Even though the condition of the church may be considered messy and full of sin, Christ loves his church and gave himself for her. Im asking The Lord to give me a love like that for my future wife, that despite all the sin, short comings, and failures that im sure will come in marriage… that I would give myself up for her. I know that I can’t do any of these things on my own. I need Jesus. Only he can do the things i’m asking him to do. I cant just work really hard at it and hope that it will all work out. I need Jesus. I am thankful for days like today where I can see a tangible work The Lord has done in my heart, but I know I have long way to go. I just refuse to not be near The Lord. I will keep praying everyday that The Lord would help me to love unconditionally, to have a soft heart, and that The Lord would prepare me for marriage. I will keep praying that he would hold onto me because I am prone to wander. I will keep praying that I would accept the love, the mercy and the grace that Jesus pours out onto my life every day. I just want more of Jesus.