Thanks all for the Birthday wishes. 23 might have been the best year of my life with an explosion of growth. As I look back over the years I see Gods hand everywhere- everything is coming together.
There where times just after Highschool where I very literally could have died. A truck accident where the truck flipped over, all the windows where gone, tires missing and when I came out from briefly blacking out a split second my head was resting up against a tree- as the truck was left in shambles I and a friend walked away nearly untouched. At another time as I was pushing the limits of stupidity on a motorcycle, I lost control around a corner and flew into the opposing lane as a truck swerved to miss me. I knew that life could be over instantly with just these few examples I have shown, yet the Lord spared me with His infinite grace. A dear friend of mine died in a wreck right after high-school and I just assume that that could have very well easily have been me. I believe these encounters and the experience of loss have enabled me to live with a more abundant joy as I have experienced greater mercy.
Just for a second lets remember how hopeless/ignorant and lost we where before God sovereignly intervened in our lives. For me and so many others that is impossible as we are just "good church folk" brought up in Church and saved at a young age. I would ask the crowd I'm apart of then to just ponder the realities of life without Christ for a moment. Devastating. I grew up hearing about Christ and even as young as 3-4 shared passionately about Gods saving grace with neighbors. I always knew that I was saved "From" hell , death and certain destruction but I never comprehended that I was saved "To" Gods incredible plan and continuing story of redemption since the Cross of Christ. At 21 I learned that repentance was a state of the heart , not curbing outward actions to meet a "religious model" of what a "good Christian" is. "Hey I don't swear to much and I attend church on Sunday without fail, I help out with my elderly neighbors and I don't commit any big sins- thats a strong faith right?." That is how I gauged my walk with the Lord for so long , sadly the "saved to" part didn't kick in until I was broken and alone in my dingy Guatemalan apartment when Gods love broke through. I would like to describe myself as a normal kid to that point when something exploded inside of my heart. Being "Saved to" Gods plan of redemption is much more joyous than "hey I swear less now and gave up smoking," the saving nature of the gospel encompasses so much more than changes on the outside but the transformation of the heart only possible through the cross. That is the gospel.
As I listened to a sermon this week about predestination the speaker brought up something that I couldn't shake. The idea that God knew me before I was born, knew all the sins I have committed and have yet to get around to- and that He still loves me , that means something incredible. That means He loves me NOW! Not the future version of David Piper (... the one post Bible College blah blah blah etc) , He loves us NOW. I also tried wrapping my head around the idea that "maybe I wasn't saved at 2 , but instead 21?" but all I can do I is rest in Gods sovereignty as that is neither here nor there now. He who began a good work in me will see it through until the day it is complete. He loved me at 15 when I was sneaking out of my parents house, He loved me at 23 when I was bringing food to a homeless shelter. There are plenty of other parallels but God loving me then is more grace than I would even allow myself as who Iam now hates who I have been. He loves you NOW. Wow. Not the future you... you NOW. That is so humbling and destroys any potential pride as its only by His grace that we are still here. Joy comes only through obedience as a product of a truly repentant heart; a heart that knows death is deserved but has been given life. I can't imagine life any other way now. Let us be encouraged in our faith!
"For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith--and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God, lest any man should boast."
It's when we fail to forget the grace that was shown us that we begin to simply curb our outward actions, forgetting that we have been spared (when we deserved death) to bring Him glory and seek His plan.
I love Psalm 119. For 174 verses the Psalter sings of Gods praises of justice and mercy. He speaks of loving Gods statues as he wakes at midnight to ponder Gods righteous law. At verse 175-176 though he concludes with a different tone:
Let me live that I may praise you,
and may your laws sustain me.
I have strayed like a lost sheep.
Seek your servant,
for I have not forgotten your commands.
Thank you God for not destroying me , even as I turn away. That verse gets me amped as it reflects a truly repentant, humble heart. Don't wait until its your Birthday to thank God for sparing you and that He will use us if we are humble and willing - do so now! Joy awaits! Amen.
Thank you God for these 24 years.
1. Accepted to Laidlaw Bible College
2. Had to stop volunteering and start making money, God provided a job with the federal government where I made big $$$ for two months.
3. Paid for 1 semester of school.
4. Didn't have the money to even fly to NZ one week before departure date / money donated out of nowhere allowed me to purchase my ticket 6 days before I left, at this point I had $30 to my name.
5. Sold my car two days before departure to a man that had been "interested" for a month that kept calling me but never had the money (frustration!)
6. At DCC's going away party for me I was touched beyond words as $1700+ was donated.
7. I arrived in Fiji to find out my plan of doing an apostolic mission trip with Sean Saffold was off as he couldn't make it... "what now God?"
8. Second day in Fiji , a Kiwi couple meets me and decides that I'm not an "axe murderer" and lets me know they have a room available and are looking for a roomate. "Magically" all of our "vacations" in Fiji ended at the same time and when I arrived Sunday afternoon to NZ It was a matter of hours before their flight came in and I was on my way to my new home.
9. A few days later I approached the church directly across the street with questions about small groups etc and how I could get plugged in via email as the front office was closed. I was very much suprised to get an email back from the pastor instead of secretary. This started the one month journey of prayfully considering a job as JH/HS Youth lead at Avondale Baptist Church. After interview after interview and a background check I'm now apart of the ministry team. I was told they had been praying nearly a year for someone to fill the spot.
10. Immigration contacted me about my lack of funds required to obtain a student visa- the NZ Gov posed one final option to me after me writing a heartfelt letter explaining circumstances: "Get a NZ citizen to sponsor you" . I found a family through church that was more than willing to help me in this process, they agreed to the NZ Govs stipulations of being financially responsible to me if everything fell through. My visa is now a reality! Its currently in the mail and I start school tomorrow (Firday). I can't start going to classes until I physically have the passport back from the mail so PRAY that I get it before Mondays lectures start when they will not allow me to attend without it. God has blown open every obstacle to this point and I'm not going to start worrying now. My faith has blown up! I mean seriously, I meet random people in Fiji that brought me to a church that would help pave the way for me to go to school and had been looking for a youth leader for a year? God is toooo good to me. All of these dreams where realized because God didn't allow Sean and mines plan to work out, there is no way I would have got my visa without the permenant address I provided in NZ and the family I met to back me. Gods plans are far superior to mine!
The Future Plans!
1. Attend Laidlaw for one semester. Ministry at Avondale Baptist will allow me to essentially eat and sleep , but not actually get ahead financially to pay for next semester.
2. At sememster end I will apply and obtain (they are easy to get I hear) a one year working visa and live and work in NZ.
3. I will work for one semester then start school up again in Feb of 2011 if bags of money don't fall from the sky
4.Simultaneously at 6 months I will apply for my permenant residency which will be a challenge to get, but if I do (you apply at 6 month mark then you have to wait another 6 months until they get to your claim- thats how it works) get my residency ... school fees will go down substantially.
God has blessed me this far , and to worry about the future would be sinful after His display of power getting me here. Im now living in Auckland and attending Laidlaw Bible College- sweet.
Im sorry if your still here reading this, I should have just written a book on this post : )