Recently, I started reading a book recommended by Focus on the Family called "Navigating Public Schools: Charting a Course to Protect Your Child's Christian Faith and Worldview" by Stephen and Sarah Williams from Prepare The Way ministry. I heard part of their story on a long drive speaking about the rights parents and teachers have within a secularized school system to protect their child's faith and worldview. I was intrigued with a lot of what he said, not knowing all the rights I would have as a teacher in the public school system to share the Gospel with my students (something I've wrestled with). So, I bought the book. I will say that at the time you are reading this, I have not finished the book. However, just within the first chapter (I'm much further along now), there were some things I found shocking and this would be a good forum to discuss some of the things I found interesting.
Another disclaimer: I am not at all associated with Prepare The Way nor am I receiving any sort of compensation for mentioning their book at all. You are not reading an ad.
Another note: The book was published in 2016 so all data and information is relatively accurate and current.
I am also aware that this blog is geared towards college students and I'm talking about primary school and I promise, it will all come full circle.
Current research shows that roughly 50-70% of teen raised in Bible-believing homes walk away from their faith once they leave home (aka go off to college and beyond) (pg. 24). A quote by David Kinnaman in his book You Lost Me states, "Young people are skeptical about the reliability of the original Biblical manuscripts; they tend to read the Bible through a lense of pluralism...the theological foundations of even the most faithful young believers seem, in some crucial ways, shaky or unreliable" (pg. 24-25).
Also, what is pluralism? Well, I looked it up. On www.pluralism.org a definition of pluralism is given with four main points. For the sake of "pluralism isn't the point of this blog," I will list the most alarming definition:
"Third, pluralism is not relativism, but the encounter of commitments. The new paradigm of pluralism does not require us to leave our identities and commitments behind, for pluralism is the encounter of commitments. It means holding our deepest differences, even our religious differences, not in isolation but in relationship with one another."
Sounds pretty good, right? Well.... Not so much. This definition of pluralism is a contradiction within itself. It implies that all are welcome to sit at the table and converse. However, the moment that you try and share your faith in a direct attempt to "save" that person, you are in contradiction to the concept of pluralism. You must, therefore, leave behind your deepest convictions so no to impose your belief system on your "brother." Sharing that Jesus Christ is the only way to heaven is not welcome because a good pluralist believes that all religions are just different manifestations of the belief in "a" god (I use little g because- to be extremely clear- the god of Islam is not the God of Christianity). This is where you get the "all roads lead to heaven" argument but I think we can all agree that there are distinct moral and theological differences between pluralistic religions that bar that defense from being a good one. And while we're on the topic, this "all roads lead to heaven" is part of the relativism movement- one that pluralism explicitly states that it is not a part of.
It really is an interesting topic and a dangerous one to a young believer's understanding of the Gospel.
This is why having a strong Biblical knowledge before you enter college is crucial when having conversations with your peers whose Biblical foundation may be a little shaky.
Current research shows that only 4% of American Christians have a Biblical worldview (pg. 25). Much of it, influenced (whether directly or indirectly) but pluralism's agenda. Even more shocking, only 19% of "born again" believers can answer the following eight questions correctly:
1. Do absolute moral truths exist?
2. Is absolute truth defined by the Bible?
3. Did Jesus Christ live a sinless life?
4. Is God the all-powerful and all-knowing Creator of the universe, and does He still rule today?
5. Is salvation a gift from God that cannot be erased?
6. Is Satan real?
7. Does a Christian have a responsibility to share his or her faith in Christ with other people?
8. Is the Bible accurate in all of its teachings?
Only 19% of Christians can answer these questions correctly. If that is not a call for a return to Scripture then I don't know what is.
The answer to each and every question on that list is YES.
In Kansas a little bit ago, Pastor Joe Wright was asked to lead prayer before the House of Representatives and this is his prayer:
“Heavenly Father, we come before You today to ask Your forgiveness and seek Your direction and guidance. We know Your Word says, “Woe to those who call evil good,” but that’s exactly what we’ve done. We have lost our spiritual equilibrium and we have inverted our values.
We confess that we have ridiculed the absolute truth of Your Word and called it moral pluralism, and worshiped other gods and called it multiculturalism. We have endorsed perversion and called it an alternative lifestyle. We have exploited the poor and called it the lottery, and neglected the needy and called it self-preservation.
We have killed our unborn and called it choice, and shot abortionists and called it justifiable. We have neglected to discipline our children and called it building self-esteem, and abused power and called it political savvy. We have coveted our neighbor’s possessions and called it ambition, and polluted the airwaves with profanity and pornography and called it freedom of expression. We have ridiculed the time-honored values of our forefathers and called it enlightenment.
Search us, O God, and know our hearts today; try us and see if there be some wicked way in us. Cleanse us from every sin and set us free.
Guide and bless these men and women who have been sent here by the people of Kansas and have been ordained by You to govern this great state. Grant them Your wisdom to rule and may their decisions direct us to the center of Your will. I ask it in the name of Your Son, the living Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.”
Amen and amen.
In order to grow that disheartening 19%, we must know our Bibles, the answers to those eight questions and many others, and be able to give a defense for the truth that is within up (1 Peter 3:15). So without further ado, let's do this:
1. Do absolute moral truths exist? Exodus 20, Romans 1:20
It is a fair statement that almost every person agrees with the 10 Commandments. They may disagree on the extent to which these commandments must be obeyed (like murder and abortion). If you showed the ten commandments to a group of unbelievers, they would agree that these most of these laws relating to a moral code are fair.
Man was created for a need for God to only be filled by God. Man is aware of this need right from the beginning and until he (or she) finds true freedom in Christ, the void will be filled with anything and everything other than Jesus. The existence of God is proven just by walking outside and marveling how the sun does not burn us up right as we step outside, how the wind does not blow us away, how we can breathe without telling ourselves to take a breath. The evidence of Jesus is all around us. We don't have an excuse.
2. Is absolute truth defined by the Bible? 2 Timothy 3:16
The Bible provides guidelines for our lives throughout it's pages. Right and wrong is clearly defined everywhere throughout Scripture, like the Ten Commandments.
Absolute truth: It is wrong to commit murder, steal, and lie. These are widely accepted absolute truths and there isn't much debate on whether it's right or wrong to steal, commit murder, or lie. There are "grey areas" that have been brought up (like abortion or lying to protect someone's feelings) but the Bible provides the black and white answer: these things are wrong and should not be done.
This is going to step on some toes but here we go. Absolute truth: homosexuality and other sexual sins (like adultery, pornography, and fornication) are sins and are absolutely wrong. The Bible does not paint these issues grey, like the world would like you to believe. They are black and white.
3. Did Jesus Christ live a sinless life? 1 Peter 2:22, 1 John 3:5, John 8, Isaiah 53:9, John 10:36,
Not only do we have several different sources, including the Gospels, documenting Jesus's sinless and perfect life, we have the words of Jesus Himself throughout the Gospels. We also have Scripture where the life, death, burial, and resurrection was promised hundreds of years before it even came to pass.
I could spend the rest of the day answering this question with an emphatic, "YES," and pointing you to other Scriptures but we have five other questions to get to.
If you are new to the faith and seeking more answers to this question, I encourage you to read the book of John entirely. Many of your questions about Jesus will be answered there.
4. Is God the all-powerful and all-knowing Creator of the universe and does He still rule it today? Romans 1:20, Genesis 1, Jonah
As Christians, we believe in an involved God. God, who created the earth, the universe, you and me, and gave us knowledge and everything we have, and is involved in our lives from start to finish and in the tiny details of our life.
I can't think of a better story that illustrates every part of that question than the story of Jonah. Jonah was a prophet (oo, ooo) but he never really got it (sad but true). And if you watch it you can spot it (a doodlely-doo)! He did not get the point!
I could keep going but I won't. You're welcome to everyone who will now have that song in their heads. The video is below for those of you who have never heard the song. Be blessed!
But seriously. Jonah was a prophet, called by God to go to Nineveh. Jonah didn't want to go there because the people were vile and depraved and slapped each other silly with fish (couldn't resist that one, y'all). In an attempt to outrun God, Jonah boards a ship to Tarshish. On his way there, a terrible storm comes and it isn't looking good for the men on the ship. The men aboard believe that someone on the ship has angered their god and begin casting lots to see who they will throw overboard to appease the gods. Jonah is convicted and knows that the storm is because of his disobedience. He volunteers as tribute, is thrown overboard, and the storm immediately ceases. In the water, Jonah is swallowed by a very large fish and is in that fish's belly, alive and well, for three days and nights. The fish then spits up Jonah on land. Guess where he's at? Nineveh!
God is in absolute control- He's in charge of the wind and the waves, the fish in the sea, and guides us on the path we need to take.
The second part of this section is "...does He still rule today?" The answer is yes. Jonah happened a long time ago, before Jesus. But the best way for me to answer that question is to tell you a personal story: This past semester at Campbell was one of the best and hardest semesters I have ever had. There were a lot of issues going on in Spiritual Life and I had/have a lot of concerns. I scheduled a meeting to discuss my concerns. I had prepared a document with the concerns I wanted to talk about, emails I had received, and Scripture I wanted to keep in mind during the meeting and bring up if the Lord led me to. I was ready to go to the meeting and I took the papers, put them in the front pocket of my folder, put the folder in my book bag, and went to the meeting. I didn't stop anywhere, didn't talk to anyone. I went straight to the office. I get to the meeting and sit down, open my book bag, take out the folder, open to grab the papers, and to my horror, they are gone. Not even 10 minutes before, I put them in that specific place so I could get to them easily once I got to my meeting. I didn't open my book bag between my apartment and the office at all. I had to rely fully on the Holy Spirit to guide me through that conversation. I said a quick prayer for wisdom and good recall. The thing is, if I had those papers in my meeting, I would've been too focused on hitting every verse and every point and not following the Lord's leading. It gets crazier than that... I called my mom as I was walking to Taylor Hall where my class was. I got to my advisors office to ask her a question. I opened my book bag and got my pink folder to grad another piece of paper. Guess what was right where I had put them? Those papers.
God. Is. In. Control.
Here is the song before we continue on...
5. Is salvation a gift from God that cannot be earned. Ephesians 2:1-10, Romans 6:23, Matthew 19:25-26, Romans 8:38-39, Revelation 22:17
I believe each and every one of these verses speak for themselves and need no clarification or comments from me. Jesus saves, y'all, and my life has never been the same.
6. Is Satan real? Genesis 3, Isaiah 4:12, Revelation 12:11, Ephesians 6:11, Matthew 4:1, 1 Peter 5:8-9
Absolutely. The Bible tells us that Satan is a fallen angel who's desire is to be like God and rule over the earth. The Lord has given him perceived power over the earth. Perceived because Satan's power is nothing compared to the matchless, infinite power and love of Jesus Christ. Satan's time is running short.
Speaking of Satan's power, he very dangerous. He has the ability to influence our decisions and our thoughts. His mission on earth is to do everything he can to keep us from falling in love with Jesus and following Jesus, thus rendering him ineffective. We must always be on guard for attacks of Satan. He does attack. You'll know it when you experience it.
7. Does a Christian have a responsibility to share his or her faith in Christ with other people?Matthew 28:16-20, Psalm 67, Romans 10:14-17
So many times, "YES." The verses listed are clear that we are COMMANDED by Jesus to share our faith with those around us. It is not a suggestion, there is no fine print that says, "This verse is only for the missionaries and pastors of the world." We are ALL commanded to follow Jesus and tell others about Him.
If you had found the cure to cancer and to save those you love with cancer and prevent those you love from getting cancer, what would you do? Surely, you wouldn't keep it to yourself! You'd share it with everyone you know! The same thing is true of us Christians. We have found the answer and have found hope and have found salvation for all eternity! We have joy and peace and love and HOPE because of Jesus! Yet, so many of us keep that from to ourselves and don't tell others. We keep the cure to cancer to ourselves.
The love of Jesus is so radical and so life-changing that should not only tell the ones we love but we should also tell perfect strangers and those we don't like or hurt us (Matthew 5:44). THAT is our Great Commission.
8. Is the Bible accurate in all of its teachings? 2 Timothy 3:16, Revelation 22:18
You could spend the rest of your life studying Scripture and you would not find a single instance where Scripture contradicts itself or cancels itself out. ALL Scripture is God-breathed and the inspired words of God. We have already discussed how Jesus is perfect and lived a sinless, perfect life. If Jesus is perfect, His words and the book that contains His words are also perfect.
These questions are just a few that are foundational (ha, get it, foundational) to our faith and it is so important to be clear on these few issues. Without a solid Biblical foundation, we are like shifting sand and can easily be deceived by seemingly good ideologies like moral pluralism.
Happy Monday, dears! I hope this finds you well and continuing to seek Jesus always!
Many of you have moved back in to your dorms or are gearing up to move back in for the upcoming year. For my freshmen out there, welcome! I can totally understand every single feeling you are having right now: excitement, anxiousness, worry, and even homesick. Welcome to college life, the freedom of living away from home, and the trials and difficult decisions coming in the months ahead. I pray some of our discussions this summer has better equipped you for those decisions and those hard times. To my sophomores all the way through grad students, welcome back! Are you ready? All those things you said you wouldn't do, couldn't do last year? Turn those into goals and stick to them even if that means telling your roommate so they'll keep you accountable. Now go and make this year the best one yet!
This week, we'll be talking about something that is amazing and beautiful and should be celebrated but ultimately leaves people feeling awkward or uncomfortable: testimonies.
There are two questions that will leave any small group or congregation in complete and utter silence: Does someone want to open/close us in prayer? Does someone want to share their testimony/what they've been learning?
Crickets for a solid two minutes until someone talks just to break the silence.
Crickets every time.
Why is this topic even important? Why are we even discussing it?
In college, you will come across people from all walks of life and backgrounds. You'll have lunch with them, sit beside them in classes, work on projects or study together. There will be people who don't love Jesus all around you. What a better mission field!! If you love and follow Jesus, His love and His light will be evident in your life to those around you, especially those who don't believe. You will get asked questions about you and your faith. Allow me to repeat that. You WILL get asked questions about you and your faith.
So, what are you going to tell them? What has Jesus personally done in your life that would make them want to deny themselves, pick up their cross, and follow Jesus?
I get it. It's tough. Usually, I get two responses to that question. Either there's so much you want to tell them, how could you possibly narrow it down? OR Your mind has drawn a blank. Usually after a few moments of staring off into space and a lot of "ums" later, people find something (or pick one thing) to talk about.
Campus ministries. Usually, the first night is a get-to-know-you night and more than likely the conversation will turn to, "Does someone want to share their testimony?" or "Let's go around in a circle and share our testimonies." Sweat, panic, and feelings of inadequacy and unpreparedness wash over you (and me most of them time). You aren't even hearing what other people are saying because you're so focused on trying to figure out what in the world you're going to say. As you hear amazing stories about how Jesus redeemed a lot of people from really horrible situations, you start to feel embarrassed by your "grew up in church, got saved at a young age, and have been sold out ever since."
Those of you in that last boat, please let me encourage you and maybe give you some ground to start building on. Your story is beautiful. It is not any less powerful than other stories because there wasn't an ah-ha moment. You story isn't centered on one moment but your journey with Christ. You know more know about Him than you did when you first got saved. What have you learned? You maybe have had to make some tough decisions regarding your faith. What were they? Maybe you've faced bullying or been left out because of your faith. How did you grow through that? How did you see God moving in those situations? What are you learning about God now?
When preachers and teachers are giving a "how-to" on sharing your testimony, they give the three point outline:
1. Your life before Christ.
2. How you got saved- what happened, how you felt, etc.
3. Your life now.
I agree that this is a solid basis for sharing your testimony. I will say, however, you will have to use discretion as to whether or not the person you are sharing your testimony with is going to be responsive to you saying you were saved at 5 years old. I would suggest sharing your journey with them and some of the difficult roads you have had to walk since them and share what you are learning now.
So, in an effort to avoid any anxiety or "winging it" or any temptation to just make something up, take a few moments to write your testimony down following the outline. Then, take a few minutes to write about what God is teaching you now. God might even show you something new about Him or yourself as you work.
I'd love to hear your story! You can share it with me in the comments or on social media using #hsfoundations! I can't wait to get to know a little more about you!
So this week, I'm starting this post, not really sure where it's going to go. I have a few things in my head that I definitely want to talk about but the journey to those points is a little foggy. Those are the fun parts of writing and listening to the voice of God. You never know where it's going to lead and when its finished, looking back is so amazing. So here goes nothing.
One of the most valuable and most difficult parts about college is the relationships you make while you are there. Some of them are lifelong friendships and some are just for a season. I've done this whole relationship thing both right and very, very wrong. I've learned a lot in both seasons and even now, I'm still learning.
I think the main reason why I didn't know how to start this or what to say is because this is such a messy topic. Feelings are involved and other people with raw emotions are very real. I can't just hide behind a screen and type some malarky without considering you, the other person on the other side of this screen.
I've avoided this topic because I thought I was okay after some of the mess that happened. When I sat down to write, I realized that there were still very big, very raw parts of my heart that hadn't fully healed and I had just been suppressing.
But we're not going to get alllllllll into that today and probably not ever. You don't need to know the details and I'm in no position to discuss them.
Going off to college presents itself with so many challenges but one of the main challenges that seems to dwell at the forefront of every upcoming freshman's mind is making friends.
As a college grad, I am here to tell you that you will most definitely NOT keep every single friend you met your first month in college. That is a fact, not an opinion. I can count on one hand the amount of people I still talk to from freshman year. One hand.
With all of that in mind, here are a few lessons I learned about relationships/friendships in college:
1. Choose prayerfully. If you feel like its wrong, it is.
Your first week after you've moved in and gotten settled will be full of activities where you can mingle and meet people from all over your campus. Go to as many of them as you can. One valuable lesson I learned is this: Don't keep yourself tethered to one group to go to all of these events. Go to some on your own. If you go with a group of people, you'll likely only meet people like the group. Meet different people from different major and different walks of life. Get numbers, go grab coffee, get dinner, go to movies, etc.
Then, when you are alone with Jesus, ask Him to show you those friendship that He wants you to hold on to. Looking back, I can see where the Lord was definitely telling me to re-evaluate those I let close to me early on but I ignored Him. I was afraid to be alone and friendless. I was still trying to figure out who I was and wanted people to surround me to distract me from "self-doubt." But eventually, everything went sour very quickly and I was alone. I hadn't branched out that first week and stuck to the same group. I could literally count on one hand the number of people who would eat a meal with me. It wasn't because I was unpleasant but because I was too shy and too quiet and all too willing to be exclusive to group.
2. Be yourself.
You might be thinking "Duh. I've heard this since I was little." However, I can't stress this one enough. Literally, y'all, be yourself in ALL situations. I've seen even the most confident people compromise who they are for friendships in college. If you have to modify your personality to be accepted by one person or a group of people, IT ISN'T WORTH IT. If you're not yourself from the beginning and you try to become who they want you to be, you'll never measure up. You'll fall short every time and you'll be reminded just how short you're falling.
But guess what? That's not how we are to allow ourselves to be treated. If the King of Kings and Lord of Lords does not hold your mistakes and shortcomings over your head, then how come you allow another sinful human being do that to you? You shouldn't. Don't. Walk away.
It is also a huge blessing to find like-minded people. This may take some time and patience and may require some tough decisions but it is worth it. Go to those campus ministry groups and grab coffee with a couple people from those groups. Look, I have friends from outside my campus ministry group but my forever friends have come from the people I met doing ministry things. I'm not at all saying that you shouldn't be friends with people who are unbelievers. Building close friendships with those that don't follow Jesus is the perfect way to share the love of Jesus. However, when it comes to sharing the issues that are burdening your heart and places where Jesus is working on you, you're going to want some prayer warriors in your corner.
3. Find people who love you for you and hang on to them.
While we're talking about about being yourself, it's important to address this issue. #2 and #3 usually goes hand in hand. People who don't accept you as you are and still wanting to hang on to your friendship usually want to be friends with you because of something you can do for them or give them. It may seem cold to say but it's true.
When you meet someone who says, "I just want to be your friend," you know you've got a good one. One of my forever friends I met my junior year said that the first time we got coffee. That was the first time someone had ever said that to me and I was blown away but her intentionality when it came to us getting together and doing life with me.
Just to brag on her a little because the Lord brought her into my life at such the perfect time it's not even funny. I got to know her before she met her now husband and watch her graduate, start grad school, and become the best nurse in the world.
Friends who just want to be your friend are forever friends.
4. It may not last forever and that's okay.
This was one of the most difficult lessons I learned during college. Sometimes, people are brought into your life for a season. During a particular time of transition, I was reading through Ecclesiastes and there several verses of that encouraged me and challenged me a lot. I could talk a lot about this point but I'm going step back and let Jesus do all the talking here.
"Two are better than one,
because they have a good return for their work;
If one falls down,
his friend can help him up.
But pity the man who falls
and has no one to help him up!
Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm.
But how can one keep warm alone?
Though one may be overpowered,
two can defend themselves.
A cord of three strands is not easily broken."
- Ecclesiastes 4:9-12
We were meant for community. We were meant to build relationships with one another. Here comes the one that kicks me in the gut.
"There is a time for everything,
and a season for every activity under heaven:
a time to be born and a time to die,
a time to plant and a time to uproot,
a time to kill and a time to heal,
a time to tear down and a time to build,
a time to weep and a time to laugh,
a time to mourn and a time to dance,
a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
a time to embrace and a time to refrain,
a time to search and a time to give up,
a time to keep and a time to throw away,
a time to tear and a time to mend,
a time to be silent and a time to speak,
a time to love and a time to hate,
a time for war and a time for peace.
What does the worker gain from his toil? I have seen the burden God has laid on men. He has made everything beautiful in it's time. He has also set eternity in the hearts of men; yet they cannot fathom what God has done from beginning to end."
- Ecclesiastes 3:1-11
There is a time for everything and sometimes we don't know what the Lord is doing. We can't see the bigger picture as we're going through it but on the other side, we can see God's hand through it all.
I could very easily spend the rest of my life kicking myself for how I handled certain friendships for two years. But remember what we said earlier? God doesn't hold my mistakes over my head, neither should I. In the moment, I couldn't see what God was doing and wanted to leave Campbell. I was done. But these verses encouraged me and just a few months into my junior year, I could look back and see all that the Lord had done and how He used those circumstances to grow me. Thank you, Jesus.
So, some friendships are for a season. That's okay. The Lord is going to use it for your good. Get ready to grow, dear one.
5. Do NOT compromise who you are and what you believe to keep a friend/group of friends.
One of my biggest mistakes early in my college career was sacrificing my involvement in campus ministries and following hard after Jesus for the appeasement of a handful of people. Like I said, I sometimes beat myself up because of it but there's no grace in that. If you feel like God has called you to x number of campus ministries, go for it. Follow hard after Jesus in all things. The people that keep up, keep. Those that lag behind and try and keep you still, leave.
Yes, be an example and lead those friends. BUT do not let them keep you from following Jesus. Do not keep them at the expense of your own walk with Jesus. Handle yourself with grace and truth and love.
6. Even when you feel utterly alone, you're not.
Man, I wish I could sit across from you, sipping coffee, and tell you how loved and cherished you are. The internet is good but it's not that good.
So, I want to introduce you to 20 year old Allison. I'm going to speak in third person because I'm not that girl anymore and I'm so thankful. When she wrote this, she was at the bottom. No friends, no one to lean on other than Jesus and her family, no one within arms reach she could really trust.
I don't remember a time when I've felt worse about myself and my situation. The best way for me to communicate to you how loved you are and special you are is by showing you what I learned when I didn't feel loved and special. My heart aches and tears well up in my eyes all over again as I read this and remember how broken, vulnerable, and laid open I was.
Again, for the sake of making you click on another link, I'll just copy and paste it below.
If you'd rather click the link, here it is!
Worth More Than Many Sparrows
May 20, 2015
As I am sitting down to write what God has laid on my heart, I am overwhelmed. I am flooded with mixed emotions and so many thoughts. I hear the lies that Satan keeps whispering in my ear but I know the truths that Scripture says about me. Lately, it seems like there is a constant fight in my mind. It's not pretty.
Have you ever been through a time in your life when you looked back on your life and wondered how in the world you got there?
Well, I definitely have. These moments have been coming frequently this week. Just on Wednesday I found myself sitting on the front row at church during the service thinking, "What happened?" I found myself trying to figure out what happened to the confident girl from last year that was determined to be her own person, do her own thing, and live her life to please God. It's not that she is gone completely... I guess she's just been on a hiatus. Looking back on the past few months, I realized that I haven't exactly been my own person and doing my own thing. I have been doing my own thing but doing it apologetically. As if my service to the Lord and His call on my life is something that I needed to apologize for.
The last few months, my apologetic living has turned into a whole new monster. My insecurity monster was/is back and raging. Right now, I find myself having to fight harder than ever to keep the words of Jesus not just in my heart but also in the forefront of my mind. In the quiet, the insecurity monster is louder than ever. "You're over-reacting." "What is wrong with you?" "No one will ever love you." "No one will ever accept you." "Everyone is just pretending to like you."
And when I realize that I'm actually listening to the stupid monster, I feel so defeated. I thought I had dealt with this. I thought this wasn't an issue anymore.
Then I realized that this is the same monster but not the same problem. But that's something for another time.
Well, at the same church service I mentioned earlier, we were reading from Matthew 9. Just one page over in my Bible I had two "Let's Be Brave" sticky notes. I turned the page and saw that "do not be afraid," is in both Matthew 10:28 and Matthew 10:31.
God is so good and His timing is perfect.
(Just for the sake of not taking anything out of context, I am going to include several verses from chapter 10. I have bolded the verses that we will focus on.)
"Be on guard against men; they will hand you over to the local councils and flog you in synagogues. On my account you will be brought before governors and kings as witnesses to them and to the Gentiles. But when they arrest you, do not worry about what to say or how to say it. At that time you will be given what to say, for it will not be you speaking, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you...All men will hate you because of me, but he who stands firm to the end will be saved...So do not be afraid of them. There is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed, or hidden that will not be made known. What I tell you in the dark, speak in the daylight; what is whispered in your ear, proclaim from the roofs. Do not be afraid of these who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell. Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from the will of your Father. And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So don't be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows."
Matthew 10:17-20, 22, 26-31 (NIV)
Worth more than many sparrows. It makes me weep just thinking about it.
Here's the deal, y'all. We love Jesus. We serve Jesus. We have said, "Here I am, Lord, send me," and meant it with every fiber of our being. We hunger and thirst for His presence in our everyday lives.
We may be on our mountain top but there is always someone, a group of someones, or an icky circumstance trying to pull us down. They/it may not be trying deliberately but you can feel the tug. You're suddenly confronted with a choice: stick around and fight or walk away. And either choice you make will hurt.
My monster recognized that this is where I'm at and is taking advantage of the situation. I realized I am more afraid of those that can only kill my body. I find myself doing almost everything I can to avoid being questioned (in a negative way) about my association with Jesus. I start trying to justify the work that I do for Jesus because some people may view it as a negative thing. I end up keeping to myself what He has whispered in my ear.
Instant conviction + simultaneously beating myself up = pity party. Yuck.
Yes, I have messed up. I lost sight of what's really important and didn't do what was best for me. And as a result, I have ended up here fighting my monster with every fiber of my being every second of every moment.
Despite all that, I am worth more than many sparrows. There is nothing that I could do or could not do that can change that. I am a messed up sinner in desperate need of a Savior and I am still worth more than many sparrows.
You are too.
I don't know what you're going through, what circumstances seem to be consuming your days, or what your struggles are. But I do know that you are so loved, so strong, and worth more than many, many sparrows.
Close your eyes and hear Jesus whispering those sweet words to you. He knows your circumstances and your struggles and He still thinks you are priceless. There's no way to measure your worth.
You are worth more than many sparrows even when you feel worthless.
You are worth more than many sparrows even when you can't seem to get over whatever struggle you're facing right now.
You are worth more than many sparrows even when you are depressed, angry, upset, or any other emotion that could course through your precious veins.
You are worth more than many sparrows even when you mess up big time.
You are worth more than many sparrows when things are good. You are still worth more than many sparrows when things are not so great.
There's nothing you could do to change that fact or change the way Jesus feels about you.
I'm sure you're probably facing some monsters right now and I am praying for strength, wisdom, and courage for you. Together, we can overcome our monsters and together we can yell from the rooftops the truths that Christ has given us.
If you're wondering if that Scripture is where the blog name came from, the answer is yes.
So, so thankful.
College is tough. Friendships are messy. Life is icky. Jesus is good.
And that, friends, is all I've got. I hope something that was said has helped you, encouraged you, or challenged you. I can't believe this is the last FOUNDATIONS for July! Time has gone so quickly and I can't wait to see what the Lord is going to do in the future!
Stress. I'm not very good at it. If you've ever met me in real life, you know that I'm a perfectionist. I've always been a pretty high-strung, type A person. By the grace of God, I learned a lot of really valuable lessons about stress and the difference in me between now and my freshman year is night and day. I still have a long way to go but I'm praising Jesus every step of the way.
For those of you about to leave high school and venture out into the great big world, you haven't seen nothing yet. I stressed in high school, especially my senior year, but it was nothing compared to the stress I experienced in college. I didn't handle it very well at all. My hope is that reading this, you'll start off on the right foot rather than doing damage control the rest of your life.
I've always said that you're not a "real" college student until after your first semester and your first finals week. Finals week in college is nothing compared to high school. Not even close. College and finals weeks brings out the worst kind of stress and my first finals week left me shell-shocked.
Plus, my first semester finals I had an upper AND lower respiratory infection. (Yes, I got a cold from the sick people around me but my stress made is so, so much worse.)
College is your first baby step into the real world. You're stepping into a new place with it's own culture and real problems. Adjusting will be stressful, moving in will be stressful, registering for classes will be stressful, moving out will be stressful, and your first test of the semester in every class every single year will be stressful.
Literally, friend, the list could go on and on and on....
FACT: Stress is a part of life, welcome to it.
FACT: Stress can be caused by something you have absolutely no control of.
FACT: More often than not for me, stress can be self-induced.
How is that? Well, there's two BIG reasons:
1. You have too much on your plate. You're spread so thin and moving in so many different directions at one time, you're not doing any of them to the best of your ability. Saying, "no," to things or clearing your schedule is a BLESSING, not a sign of weakness.
2. You have put too much weight or value on something that isn't really important, it doesn't have any eternal value or won't really matter five years from now.
FACT: How you handle or view stress is what makes all the difference in the world. There is hope.
It wasn't until the Lord gave me some proper perspective, that I finally got better about handling my stress. I remember it like it was yesterday. I came home during my first finals week to go to the doctor. I felt awful and guilty for every single minute I wasn't studying for my biology final. After my mom and I went to the doctor (I go by myself now, thank you), we went to Walmart to pick up a couple of things that would help me feel better (and a couple things off the grocery list). I had gone to get a new journal because I filled up my old one and then went to find Mom. I was having trouble finding her and ended up walking around and around and around the store looking for her. I remember telling Jesus in my mind (not out loud - pray without ceasing, y'all), "I feel like a fish in a fishbowl looking for her." Then BOOM. I got an instant reality check from Jesus.
When I got back on campus, I spent some time with Jesus and wrote down the reality check. On December 4, 2013 I wrote the blog "Fishbowl Perspective." For the sake of not having to click to another article, I'm just going to paste it below in italics.
"Well, it's that time in a college student's life… Exams.
On these exams rides all of my hopes of getting A's in all of my classes, having a fabulous GPA, and keeping my scholarship.
While I was considering all of this today, I felt trapped. Trapped in the expectations that I put on myself. Trapped in this seemingly never-ending route of doing my best and trying to get the grade. Trapped and going nowhere.
It kind of feels like being stuck in a fishbowl. A place with nowhere to go but in circles, doing the same thing over and over again.
My mom always told that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again but expecting a different result each time. Let me tell you, this fishbowl I'm in feels like insanity.
Listen, I have put in the time studying. I have put in the time studying before for each test, each quiz and gave my 100 percent on every assignment. WHY AM I SO STRESSED?
Because in the fishbowl the same things keep coming up over and over again and instead of a different result, I fall back to the same thing over and over again. Swimming in circles.
Someone reading this might be saying, "Okay. I get it. What is your point?!"
My point is this: Everyone has their own fishbowl. Everyone has that one thing that makes them so frustrated or stressed or upset that they start swimming in circles. Everyone has one. As imperfect, stubborn humans, we all probably have more than one fishbowl.
The problem with the fishbowl is that the perspective is all wrong. In the fishbowl, swimming in circles, you can only see what is ahead of you. You're just looking at "What's next in this thing that makes me so frustrated, upset, or stressed?" You never take your eyes off of that thing. You just keep chasing it and swimming in circles.
Two of the BEST words in the Bible. A phrase so small that means so much.
Here is what God has to say about our fishbowls:
"For God has not given us a spirit of fearfulness, but one of power, love, and of sound mind."
2 Timothy 1:7
"But we have the mind of Christ…"
1 Corinthians 2:16
"Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will make your paths straight."
God hasn't given us a fishbowl with a fishy perspective. He has given us quite the opposite. He has given us a spirit of power, love, and sound mind. He has promised to make our paths straight if we just trust Him.
God doesn't put us in the fishbowl; our sinfulness, stubbornness, and pure humanity puts us in the fishbowl.
But God has given us the mind of Christ.
He gave us a vast ocean in all its infiniteness full of His marvelous grace, mercy, love, and glory! He wants us to swim in His ocean, in His waters. He doesn't want us to keep swimming in circles but He wants us to move forward. He wants us to have room to grow and to constantly ask, "What do you have for me next, God?" He will show you because He is the one who makes our paths straight.
The best part is, when we get stuck in our little fishbowl, He will show up. He will take us out of that fishbowl and put us in His ocean.
"They cried to the Lord in their trouble and He delivered them from their distress."
He delivers us. And because of that deliverance we are to worship Him with all of our heart, soul, mind, and strength. He is so worthy!
Thank you, Father, for your ocean of grace, mercy, love, and glory!"
Now when I find myself stressed out, whether it be because I said "yes" to too much or put too much value on that test or paper, I remind myself of those verses and take a step back to avoid putting myself in the fishbowl.
A lot of times I ask myself a variation of these questions:
Does this paper or test have an eternal value or glory? Nope.
Does it change at all the fact that I am a graduate? Nope.
Does it change the fact that I am a graduate student? Nope.
Does it change how my family sees me? No.
Does it change the way Jesus sees me? No.
Does continuing to stress about x, y, z change anything at all? No.
Okay. STOP IT.
Now don't get me wrong, some stress is good. But I think we all know what our "good stress" and "bad stress" feels like. Reciting those verses to myself, answering those questions, and taking a few deep breaths usually works for me. It may not be your thing. You'll just have to find what works for you. Here are a few things that work for my friends:
- LONG, hot showers. The more stressed she was, the longer the shower.
- 15 minute walk with some praise and worship music.
- Playing an instrument
- Watching a 20 minute Netflix show.
But for each of these friends, prayer was the main ingredient.
"Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go." Joshua 1:9
He's with you, dear friend. Trust Him. Rely on Him and give Him all your worry and stress. He's strong enough to handle it.
I have been sitting on some very exciting news for quite a while and I am THRILLED to finally share it with you!!
Many of you have said that you would love to go through Let's Be Brave but it's too much paper and ink to print it out and you want to be able to write and highlight all over the place. Well, I have a solution!
Let's Be Brave is officially PUBLISHED! You can get it on Kindle and in paperback form! The Kindle version is $4.99 and for the next couple of weeks, as a celebration, the paperback version will be only $5.99!
Two years ago when the Lord challenged me to start writing down all the things He was teaching me in that season and gave me the words "Let's Be Brave," I would have never imagined this. The glory goes to God alone! Thank you, Lord!
Click the link below to get your own copy!
Let's Be Brave Devotionals - Kindle and paperback
Hello, beautiful friends! Can you believe we're almost halfway through July?! I can't! This season has been so beautifully challenging and I am so thankful for each and every one of you that have stuck with me through it!
This week's study is going to be very similar to last week's and we're going to dive right in! At the end of this post, I am going to have links to TONS of resources listed for you and even a freebie! Those of you that subscribe to the blog and get emails, these resources are in your inbox! (If you want these in your inbox in the future, sign up!)
In all my high school days and even now, I automatically cringe at the sound of these two words together. Somehow, anytime we talked about quiet time in church, youth, small group Bible studies, I found myself on the insecure and inadequate train. I found myself berating myself for not being perfect and persistent in my daily quiet time. I also found myself wondering if those preaching at me about quiet time were as consistent in their own quiet time as they presented themselves to be.
If we're all honest, none of us are completely perfect at keeping a quiet time. We're busy, we don't have any time, we don't know what to do in our quiet time, we're scared. We have a million and one excuses for not having a regular quiet time.
Despite my imperfection and craziness, I have learned a lot about quiet times and how important they are. The following list are things that I have learned about quiet times while I was in college. It was a struggle to figure out what worked best for me and because college can be inconsistent because every few months your schedule changes, I am still trying to figure out what is the absolute best routine for me. This list is just a few things I have learned about quiet times that motivated me to be consistent but that doesn't mean that they work for you. We're all different and we are all at different places in our walk with Christ. God also requires different things for each of us. With that being said, please do not feel like this list is the end all and be all about quiet times.
1. 5 minutes is better than 0 minutes.
Despite what you may have heard your whole entire life, some time in God's Word is better than no time in the Word. Even just reading a single Bible verse a day and meditating on it throughout the day is better than not reading anything. Satan can be defeated with a single breath of God. A single Bible verse has the same power.
2. Morning quiet times are ideal but night time is just as good.
I am a morning person. I wake up early and I am ready to take on the day. So, most of the time, I get my quiet time done in the morning so I can think about it throughout the day. However, I know that we are all busy and not everyone is a morning person like me. If my day is crazy and for some reason I don't have time to do my quiet time, I usually do it before I go to bed. That way, I am thinking about the love and grace and mercy of God as I lay down to sleep. And when I wake up, I am ready to go again.
During my fall semester of senior year this was really hard. I had to be at school at 7:15 and once I left school, I had class all afternoon. Then I had other responsibilities on campus (like work and campus ministry president stuff) and SO MUCH HOMEWORK. That left very little time for a quiet time so I found that in order for me to get it done, I had to get up at 4:30. I started off really strong and then as the semester wore on and I was staying up later because I had more work to do, I didn't always get up that early. So, see? Still not perfect.
My junior year, I my accountability partner and I did Bible studies together. We each had our own quiet time and we did studies like "Discerning the Voice of God" by Priscilla Shrier. Also, we both met with another friend every Wednesday morning at 7:00 for coffee, breakfast, and discipleship.
In college, there will be TONS of campus ministries that all want you to join. My freshman year, I went to all of them at least twice, trying to figure out which one(s) I like the best. In the end, I sticked with Ignite (which was co-ed) and SHINE (which is an all-girls ministry). Even though being plugged into these campus ministries and a local church is so important, it is NOT the substance of your relationship with Jesus. What you do on Sundays and Wednesdays or whenever your campus ministry meets, is supplemental ONLY. It adds to what you're doing everyday. It gives you a place to share your struggles and what God taught you today. Church/campus ministries are for worship and community, not the only couple hours you'll spend with Jesus.
3. You are not a bad Christian or "fake" if you have a hard time keeping a regular quiet time.
This has been one of the hardest truths for me to learn. If I said, "I'm going to read a chapter of Genesis a day," and I didn't read a chapter every single day, I felt like I had failed God and I was a fake. I felt like a phony because I hadn't read my Bible daily like a good and true Christian did.
If you haven't read your Bible today, you are not a failure, phony, or a hypocrite. Sweet friend, did you hear me? You are NOT a failure, phony, or hypocrite. You are dearly loved, saved by grace, chosen by God himself.
Whether or not you read your Bible today does not change what Scripture says about you. It doesn't.
This should not, however, be an excuse to never read your Bible. Reading your Bible and having some alone time with the King of Kings and Lord of Lords is the most vital element of your relationship with Christ. Religion says, "Read your Bible or else." Relationship says, "Read your Bible and learn more about Me, see My heart, and follow Me." See the difference?
When we're in a romantic relationship with someone, we want to learn all that we can about that person. We study them when we're together. The same concept can be applied to our quiet time. That time is when we study Christ and learn Him because we love Him and want our lives to point to Him.
4. Find a "study system" that works for you.
This is also something else that I have majorly struggled with. Majorly. It's tempting to just open the Bible and read whatever verse my finger lands on. It's also tempting to just stick to Bible studies where other people have given you homework and relying on what they have to say about the Word.
Something that I have been doing since my junior year in high school is going through books of the Bible. I have learned SO much from doing this. Whenever I finish a book, I spend a week or two weeks praying and asking God where He wants me to go next in Scripture. He usually shows me where I should be and then I do a little bit of research on the book before I start to get some context on the book itself.
Then, I go through and read a paragraph or a section of a chapter of the book. Once I have read my portion for the day, I go through each verse and write down whatever God is saying to me about that verse and maybe how He is applying it to my life today.
Here's an example:
A few weeks ago I finished reading through Daniel. Usually, I went through a chapter at a time but some of the longer chapters, I did on multiple days and divided in halves or thirds. Right now, I'm in the "in between books" stage. But here is just one example of writing in my journal for a particular verse. This is for Daniel 1:11-16.
"God's ways and His will is greater than my own will, thoughts, and desires. When I RESOLVE to follow Jesus in ALL things, I see His plans unfold before me and can see His hands in all things, even the hard things, and give Him honor, glory, and praise."
Also, God taught me some really hard truths with Nebuchadnezzar's statue of himself that was really hard. More to come later...
I also do the Bible studies with the homework but I feel like I am more connected and in sync with God by going through a book and allowing Him to teach me.
5. Prayer is vital to having a healthy quiet time/relationship with God.
I cannot stress the importance of prayer enough. Prayer is SO important to having a personal relationship with Christ. I don't think I am eloquent enough to adequately describe prayer so I'm going to let some of the greatest people describe it for me:
"I pray because I can't help myself. I pray because I'm helpless. I pray because the need flows out of me all the time - waking and sleeping. It doesn't change God - it changes me."
- C.S. Lewis
"Any concern too small to be turned into prayer is too small to be turned into a burden."
- Corrie Ten Boom
"I have so much to do that I shall have to spend the first three hours in prayer."
- Martin Luther
"The greatest thing anyone can do for God and man is pray. It is not the only thing; but it is the chief thing."
- S.D. Gordon
"The essence of meditation is a period of time set aside to contemplate the Lord, listen to Him, and allow Him to permeate our spirits."
- Charles Stanley
6. Commitment is what will drive you. If you're not committed or determined, your quiet time will not be regular or profitable.
The key thing to having a successful quiet time is commitment. Since I have committed to studying my Bible every day, a fire has grown within me. My desire and thirst for the Words of Scripture cannot be quenched. I can't get enough. On days where I make excuses as to why I didn't do my quiet time, I can tell. I can tell in my attitude, my thoughts, and my words towards others. We all have that fire within us because we all have an innate, programed desire to know and love God. Sometimes, its just hard to give that desire enough fuel to burn bright. But you know what? Even on days when that fire is a little dim, if you ask the Lord to renew that fire and that passion, He will do it!
"Look to the Lord and His strength; seek His face always."
1 Chronicles 16:11
Here are some really cool resources that I have used at one time or another!
Proverbs 31 Ministries - You can sign up to get FREE devotionals sent to your inbox every day!
First 5 app - also associated with Proverbs 31 and it's a devo for the first five minutes of your day and from what I understand, it's synced up with your alarm!
She Reads Truth - This is also an free app with the Bible and TONS of plans, free and paid.
He Reads Truth - Same thing but for guys!
SoulScripts - Jordan Lee Dooley posts things pretty often on her blog. You can also get devos and how-to guides through a paid subscription.
YouVersion bible app - FREE app that has TONS of devotional plans!
Jesus Calling by Sarah Young
Let's Be Brave by yours truly! A link is available where you can purchase LBB!
If there's anything I missed or a really good male-oriented plan please tell me in the comments below! I'd love to add more to this list! What has worked for you?
You can share your thoughts below or use the #hsfoundations on social media!
Happy Monday, beautiful friends! I don't about you guys, but it was a whirlwind week for me. I've had two major assignments due within a week of each other and I've been working like a madwoman trying to get them completed. It's been a struggle but even through it all, I can see God's faithfulness and His grace. While I've been single-mindedly focused on my assignments, He's still been working things out. I put Him on the back-burner. I put my school work before my relationship with Him.
I've repented. And I am working to keep Him first, even when I'm drowning in assignments.
And He still loves me. He doesn't take back the nails. He doesn't come off of the cross. He doesn't say, "You know what? You're too much work. I'm outta here." THAT, my friends, is grace.
Last week, we looked at God's desire for us and our sin. Our conclusion was that God, through the death of His Son on the cross, did not give us freedom to sin but rather freedom from sin.
This week is going to be a little bit different. I'm attaching a link to sermon by Dr. Stephen Davey, pastor at Colonial Baptist Church here in NC. I've listened to many of his teaching series and this man preaches the Word of God and doesn't sugar coat anything. We need more preachers like that. This coming year at Bible Study Fellowship we will be going through Romans and my family has been listening to his study in preparation. (More on BSF later.)
Click here to either download the manuscript or listen to the sermon. I would encourage you to listen to the sermon and just hear him preach. Reading it is also SO good so whichever one you would prefer! I'll go ahead and warn you that it will automatically play the sermon and there's music right at the beginning but from there you can also download the transcript. If you want to listen to more of his sermons, click here!
In the sermon, you will hear/read the story of how David showed grace to one of Jonathan's sons after his death. There's song by John Mark McMillan written about that experience. It's on of my favorite JMM songs so I'm putting the video below.
Bible Study Fellowship is a non-denominational Bible study where men, women, and children around the world gather to study God's word. In the United States, we follow the school calendar and we study whole books of the Bible. One of the coolest things about BSF is that everyone around the world is studying the same book of the Bible, answering the same questions, and reading the same notes. I spent nine years in the children's program and this year will be my first year back after 5 years (there wasn't a BSF near me in college and I got plugged in to other ministries on campus) and I'll be in the adult program! We'll be going through the book of Romans and it is going to be SO GOOD! If you would like more information on BSF, click here. You can also find a BSF near you. It is free of charge.
And let me tell you, I would not be where I am today in my walk with the Lord without BSF. BSF taught me how to read and understand God's word. It taught me how to pray for myself and pray for others. It taught me how to see God in every aspect of my life and not put Him in a box. It's an amazing ministry and I pray you will get plugged in!
Is it God's will for me to sin? Man, what a great question.
For those of us that have been on our faith journey for quite some time, this questions is not one that we consider very often. Not that this is an elementary concept, it's just that we don't really think about it that much. The conversation involving God's will for us and our mistakes as human beings is a very complex and complicated issues. It has been a greatly debated topic since the words of Paul in Romans 8 concerning predestination.
If you're struggling with this idea or question, welcome to the party. You are joining the multitude of Biblical giants who have wrestled with this concept.
This week's discussion will simply be that: a discussion. I'm not claiming to know everything there is to know about Scripture and I want you to test every single thing I say with Scripture.
"But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ - by grace you have been saved- and raised us up with Him and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages He might show the immeasurable riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not of your own doing; it is the gift of God, no a result of works, so that no one may boast."
- Ephesians 2:4-9 (ESV)
When discussing the topic of grace and sin in our lives, these verses are always an important reminder. Absolutely nothing we have done or didn't do has given us salvation. It was not our "good character" or the fact that we went to church or didn't struggle with _____ particular sin. It was only by the grace of God and through His sacrifice on the cross.
So if there's nothing that we can or can't do to earn God's salvation (other than accepting it), is there anything we can or can't do to lose it?
This is also a highly debated conversation within different denominations of the church. I am in the "once saved always saved" camp. There are several verses to support this position but one passage in John comes to mind.
"Jesus answered, 'I did tell you, but you do not believe. The miracles I do in my Father's name speak for me, but you do not believe because you are not my sheep. My sheep listen to my voice; I know them and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father's hand. I and the Father are one."
- John 10:25-30 (NIV)
Then the next natural question that is asked is if there's nothing that I can do to earn salvation and once I have accepted it, and there's nothing I can do to lose it, what prevents me from doing whatever I want if God will just forgive my sins (that He already knew I was going to commit)?
While I believe there is no sin too grievous that can physically take away your salvation, I do believe that you can walk away from Jesus and walk away from your salvation. You didn't lose it, you made the choice to no longer accept this free gift. In my opinion, to live unchanged after hearing the Gospel and to continue on sinning just because God will forgive you, is walking away from the free gift of salvation. It is an abuse of the grace of God.
Jesus commands us to, "deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me." (Luke 9:23 NIV) What does it mean to deny ourselves and take up our crosses?
"Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold the new has come." (2 Corinthians 5:17)
"Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord." (Acts 3:19 NIV)
Take up our cross and denying ourselves means repenting and turning from our sins. It means we are made new in Him and we work each and every day to walk in our newness of life.
One final Scripture for you to ponder this week:
"Everyone who sins breaks the law; in fact, sin is lawlessness. But you know that appeared so that he might take away our sins. And in him is no sin. No one who lives in him keeps on sinning. No one who continues to sin has either seen him or known him. Dear children, do not let anyone lead you astray." (1 John 3:4-7a NIV)
What does this mean for us? That because we love Jesus and we strive to know Him, we fight against sin each and every day. This Scripture is not saying that if we mess up, we never really loved Jesus. If we continue to live in sin and live unchanged because of the goodness of God in our lives, then did we truly ever love Him or know Him?
But what about when we mess up? Dear one, it is called grace. Next week, we will delve into the topic of grace and examining the implications of grace on our lives and, more specifically, our sin.
No matter how old you are or how strong your relationship with the Lord is, we all have gone through seasons where we feel like we cannot hear the voice of God or God just isn't speaking to us. Those seasons tend to be filled with questions and doubt and so many feelings of inadequacies.
I can still remember very specific seasons of my life where I felt like I couldn't hear the voice of the Lord or God just wasn't speaking to me right then. I thought He wasn't answering my prayers because my prayers weren't worth answering and I wasn't worth the trouble. I felt like I was no longer good enough or "saved" enough to hear Jesus answering my prayers. Those seasons were dark times that were spiritually, mentally, and emotionally exhausting. As if my feelings of inadequacy weren't enough, Satan knew the areas of my life that I felt especially vulnerable. I was broken (I'm still a broken sinner in need of a Savior but I was really really broken) and hurting deeply. I felt unheard and abandoned. I felt worthless. Despite my heartache towards the Lord in those moments, I continued to come back to His Word hoping, just hoping, He would speak to me. Give me something, anything.
Maybe you're in that season right now. You feel abandoned by Jesus and absolutely worthless. Maybe you're in a season of making big decisions and God's silence is deafening. No matter what season you're in, dear one, allow me to assure you that this season of silence is just that: a season.
Your relationship with God and your salvation is NOT invalid because you don't hear Him right now. You're not a terrible a Christian because you can't hear Him. You are NOT alone. You have not been abandoned. I can absolutely promise you that He will speak.
Last summer, I was the worship leader at an all-girl's Christian summer camp. Each week, we had missionaries come in and share their experiences as missionaries all over the world. The very last week of camp, the most amazing woman of God I have ever met in my entire life shared her life story with us. The majority of her sessions, however, she took the time to share with us how she hears the voice of the Lord. Before we get to all of that, let's see what Jesus says about hearing His voice in Scripture.
Now after you read each verse, take some time to reflect and write down your thoughts on what that particular verse or verses is saying about hearing His voice. There is some space below for those of you who have printed this bad boy out:
1. "Look to the Lord and His strength; seek His face always." 1 Chronicles 16:11
2. "So Eli told Samuel, 'Go and lie down, and if he calls you say, "Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening."' So Samuel went and lay down in his place. The Lord came and stood there, calling as at the other times, 'Samuel, Samuel!' Then Samuel said, 'Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening!;" 1 Samuel 3:9-10
3. "My heart says of you, 'Seek his face!' Your face, O Lord, I will seek." Psalm 27:8
4. "Come near to God and He will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded." James 4:8
5. "My sheep listen to my voice: I know them and they follow me." John 10:27
What do all of these verses have in common: our relationship with the Lord and seeking His face and His will in our lives. God created us to glorify Him. One way we give Him glory is through our personal relationship with Him. Part of having a healthy relationship with Jesus, and anyone for that matter, is open communication. So often, we have our quiet times and our times of pray and we do a whole lot of talking. We say, "Amen," and move on with our day, closing off the other end of communication. We don't allow God to speak in our lives. It would be like a friend calling you and telling you all about their day and what's going on in their lives and then hanging up the phone before you could respond or tell them about your life. Imagine your frustration and that friend called you again upset because you aren't speaking to them. But how could you speak? Your friend hadn't left any space for you to communicate with him/her and he/she is upset with you for not saying anything?! It sounds pretty crazy right?
This is exactly what we do to God day after day. Now I will say that there are some times where God is on purpose not speaking because He wants us to trust Him. I have found that 9 times out of 10, when I'm upset at Jesus for not speaking, it's really because I'm not listening.
We don't have any trouble speaking. It's the listening thing that gets us.
So how can we work on hearing and listening to the voice of God? Well, here's where the missionary comes back in. Here are the steps she gave us:
1. Calm your mind.
2. Fix your eyes on Jesus.
3. Listen to the voice of God.
4. Write down what you hear, starting with your name.
5. Test it:
Let's look at those steps a little more in-depth:
1. Calm your mind. Easier said than done, right? Calming our mind means erasing all distractions. Turn off your phone. Turn off the TV. Get quiet and get focused. Lay aside for a few moments your to-do list and everything you have going on and everything you're worried about or thinking about (even if it's one of those "in the back of your mind" things)..
2. Fix your eyes on Jesus. This isn't like yoga where you empty your mind. You are emptying your mind of distractions and worries and focusing on Jesus. Y'all, when we focus on Him, our minds will always be occupied. Think of His goodness and His love for you. Think of His perfect plan for your life. Praise Him for who is and what He's done in your life.
Turn your mind's eye on Jesus, look full in His wonderful face and the things of earth will grow strangely dim in the light of His glory and grace.
3. Listen to the voice of God. He will speak. It may not be an audible voice but something that rises up in your spirit or in your gut. It might be a Bible verse that comes to mind or a song. He's speaking. Lean into Him, rest in His presence, and let His voice woo you once again.
4. Write down what you hear, starting with your name. Simple enough. Starting with your name allows you to take ownership of what God is saying to you. He's speaking to YOU, not Bob, YOU.
5. Test it. Paul reminds us so often throughout his writings to test everything he says with Scripture. When we do this, it remains the same. I've learned that a lot of times Satan will sneak in there, disguised as love, and speak shame, hurt, and insecurities into my life. Test what you hear with Scripture and if it doesn't match up with the inerrant Word of God and the characteristics of a good (good) father, it wasn't Jesus who spoke.
These 5 steps are a really great way to help you take time to listen for God's voice. This isn't the only way the Lord will speak to you. Sometimes, He'll put certain people in your path or have someone reach out to you and confirm something for you (and you have no earthly idea how they knew that was what you were struggling with). He'll use Scripture. He'll use music. He'll use dreams. You'll get that feeling in the pit of your stomach and know exactly what it's about.
Don't expect to be an expert at hearing the voice of the Lord in your life right off the bat. As your relationship with the Lord grows, your ability to discern God's voice from Satan's and the rest of the noise of life will also grow. You'll be able to look back and see where God was leading you, even though it didn't make sense at first. You'll see how those periods of silence strengthened your relationship with Him and shaped you into the person you are today. Even though we are not defined by our seasons of silence, we are shaped and changed by them.
So even if you're going through a valley or a season of silence right now, be thankful and rejoice because God is about to show up and show off in your life in ways that you never even imagined. Brace yourself.
What is the Gospel? It's a question that is ringing on our streets, in our malls, and especially on our college campuses. Every where we look, we see evidence of lives untouched and unchanged by the life-changing, live-giving message of the Gospel.
More than half of all adults in American cannot name all four gospels. Even fewer can name at least three disciples. These statistics are staggering but not a mountain too hard to climb.
You, dear one, are getting to embark on one of the most defining journeys of your lifetime: college. Not only will you learn information to build a career that will (Lord willing) last a lifetime, your world is about to be shaken to it's core. During your time in college, you will come across people from such diverse backgrounds, countries, beliefs, and walks of life. Those around you will question your faith. Ideas you hear will make you question your own beliefs and whether or not you actually believe those things are true. Please notice that I am not at all saying that these things might happen. They will. The purpose for this series is to get those foundational issues clear so that during those conversations you will lean into the grace and truth of Jesus and walk away more in love with Jesus than ever before.
So, our first foundational concept is the Gospel itself. You might be thinking that the message of the Gospel is pretty cut and dry. John 3:16, right? Absolutely. For us, the message is clear. For those that grew up in a different religion or different walk of life have heard several different (and not all true) things about the Gospel and Jesus.
Here are some common misconceptions about Jesus, the Author and Finisher of our faith, our protagonist and hero in the story:
Jesus is only concerned about the rules and regulations of religion. He only wants to abolish religion.
Jesus never claimed to be God.
Jesus was always Mr. Nice Guy.
Jesus is only to be viewed as a historical figure, like Napoleon or Cesar.
Much like Aesop, Jesus was a good moral teacher.
Jesus makes no demands for how I am to live my life.
If we have a clear understanding of the Gospel, we have a clear understanding of who Jesus is, what claims He makes, and what we are called to do because of His life, death, and resurrection.
So what exactly is the Gospel?
One of the most beautiful things about the Gospel and Scripture is that even in Genesis 1:1, the presence, power, grace, and love of Jesus Christ is felt and obvious. That red thread of love, grace, and hard truth carries us all the way through to Revelation 22:21. Every page, every verse, every word, every red letter, every period and comma has the power to change lives because it is filled with the love, power, and presence of Jesus Himself. Each word carries an eternal weight. It is to be taken seriously. The Gospel and our response to it is an issue of life and death. We get this wrong, we get everything wrong.
To understand the full picture of the Gospel, we have to start from the beginning:
"In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters." Genesis 1:1-2
In the very beginning there was nothing but everything. While there was no mass or matter, God was there. Before anything existed God was, just as God is and is to come. His spirit was hovering over the waters and in that moment, however brief or eternal it may have been (we don't know - our minds can't comprehend it), God knew you. God saw you. God loved you. God spoke and the world and everything in it came to be. Oh to have seen it! The only thing within our earthly and finite realm comparable to the moment when creation came into being is a scene from the first book in the Chronicles of Narnia, The Magician's Nephew, written by C.S. Lewis. Aslan the lion (who is an allegory for God and Christ), is walking and singing. As he walks, the light and sun follows. As he sings, the grass, the trees, the flowers, and the world comes into being. The way Lewis paints that picture is so marvelous and wonderful. Imagine being there the moment God said, "Let there be light." How much more marvelous and wonderful it must have been. God even said, "It is good." And it was until we showed up.
Because of the sin of Adam and Eve, sin entered the world forever. What God had once called "good" was no longer spotless. Before that moment, we had no need for a Savior. Here is where our crimson red thread begins. Our need for a Savior, only cleansed by the blood of someone or something without blemish, began the moment sin entered our world and changed everything.
From there, the flaws and sin nature guided and corrupted our world. There were only a few that sought after the Lord and longed to dwell with Him. However, they weren't perfect. In order to atone for the sins of the people, the Lord had rules and regulations. The only atonement of sin could be found through the blood shed of animals that were perfect and whole. Time passed, kings came and went, wars began and ceased, the nation of Israel fell from the Lord and made their way back. The more time that passed since creation, the worse things got, the deadlier the sin, the greater the consequences. Our need for a Savior became more desperate and more urgent.
Just when things couldn't get any worse: A baby was born. Fully God and fully man, born of a virgin (just as the prophets foretold), Jesus Christ, Savior of the world was born in Bethlehem, lying in a manger.
From the very moment this child was conceived and even when He was making His way into this world, this world was against Him. After He was born, there was a star above the place where He lay, bringing attention to the tiny stable in Bethlehem with a virgin and her betrothed. The star brought a lot of attention but it only makes sense that when the King of Kings and Lord of Lords presence and warmth is felt on the earth rather the heavenly realms, all of heaven and earth rejoices. There were angels and the shepherds in a field nearby came to see what the angels sang about and where the star led. Far off, the Magi noticed the star and knew the prophecy. They went to King Herod to tell him about the joyous star and their journey to see the baby, the King. This whole king business made Herod nervous and he ordered for all the Israelite boys under the age of three to be killed.
See what I mean? Against him?
An angel awoke Joseph in the middle of the night one night and gave him specific instructions to flee to Egypt with Mary and Jesus. Immediately (immediately) Joseph and his family of three was obedient and fled to safety.
Jesus grew into stature and wisdom and knowledge and began His ministry. To go through all the details of His life and ministry would be nearly impossible for one session but I encourage you to read the Gospels for yourself. There is so much to learn and I have so much to learn as well.
He was sinless and perfect, full of grace and truth (John 1). He healed the sick, raised the dead, transformed the lives of the men, women, and children that surrounded Him, and changed the course of human history. The religious leaders of His time hated Him. He challenged their self-indulgent, prideful religious acts and called out their dirtiness and emptiness inside. At the same time, He offered these men life-changing and life-giving hope. Is that what they wanted? No. They wanted a pat on the backs saying, "Well done good and faithful servant." Instead, they were told, "Away from me, for I never knew you." So, they put Him on trial and though He was innocent, He was handed over to the Romans to be killed. He was beaten within an inch of His life, He was mocked. He was spat upon, and those whom He loved turned their backs on Him. As if that wasn't awful enough, they nailed Him to the cross and gambled for His clothes as He hung, dying, for my sins and yours. Every last corrupt thought, every last gossip, every last anything all hung there on the cross.
One of the men Jesus had impacted offered up his burial site for Jesus to be laid. They laid Him in the tomb, rolled a stone in front of it, and left guards standing there to make sure no funny business happened. Three days later, the earth began to shake, the stone began to roll away, and the Christ, Son of the Living God emerged from the tomb, alive! Death, hell, sin, the grave, and Satan had been conquered! Jesus Christ, our sacrificial Lamb, has washed away all of our sin forever! He appeared to hundreds of people after His resurrection and then ascended back to heaven where He is waiting for us.
There are so many more things I could tell you about the life of Jesus and so many other crucial parts to the Gospel that make it so wonderful and so life giving. I wish I had time to tell you each and every story that is presented in the four Gospels and throughout Scripture. Unfortunately, there isn't enough time in the world and there isn't enough space on the internet to tell you all the wonderful things about Jesus and quite honestly, I haven't learned them all.
If you are new to the faith and still a little unsure what the Gospel is, I would recommend that you read the book of John. I spent almost a whole year in it this past year and learned so much about Jesus and His life and ministry.
Now what? Jesus came and was born of a virgin, was crucified, dead, and buried to wash away the guilt of my sins, and on the third day He rose again. What are we supposed to do next? Is there a next step? What does it look like to follow Jesus? These are all questions that people have had since Jesus was walking on this earth and they are valid questions.
Next week, we will talk about what our proper response is to the Gospel and what we are supposed to do in response to it.
This week, I challenge you to be in prayer and ask the Lord if there is an area of your life that you are unwilling to surrender to Christ. Ask God to show you that He is trustworthy and actions you can take this week to learn to trust Him.
Hello, sweet friend! This study has been something that I have thought about, prayed about, and worked hard to get ready for (mentally, spiritually, and emotionally) and I am SO excited to finally get started.
This study is mostly geared toward incoming college students and preparing them for some of the issues and struggles they will face, as well as giving them tools and Scripture to help them through and come out closer to Jesus than ever before. While this study is going to be mostly written to the assumed audience of college students, that doesn't mean that the information or topics discussed aren't relevant in your everyday lives. The things discussed throughout this study are probably things that you face on a daily basis yourself. So grab a cup of coffee, your Bible, and get ready to come on this wild ride with me.
For those of you in my Sunday school class, welcome! Every single session will be written out and the notes will be here. I'd bookmark this page if I were you. You may have homework.
Now, to address the title of this extra special introduction! What on earth do I mean by, "This isn't what I wanted?"
The summer of my junior year of high school, I was told that I needed to be seriously looking at colleges and choosing a major. Me, a seventeen-year-old, making major decisions that would affect the rest of my life. At that time, I had just come out of a year-long song and dance with physical therapy. So, that summer I decided I was going to be a physical therapist. Then the fall came around and I was enrolled in anatomy and physiology so my PT plan changed very quickly.
Now, those of you who know me personally and have known me a while know that I love to doodle and paint and I'm halfway decent at lettering. So, I decided that I was going to be a graphic designer. I applied to schools with the intended major of graphic design. I was accepted and even competed for scholarships with the intended major.
Fast forward to November, Thanksgiving break exactly, and the Lord was eating at me big time. I couldn't get any sleep and I had absolutely no peace about my decision to go to school to pursue a degree in graphic design. I didn't tell anyone, not even my parents or my best friend, about my struggles. I wrestled alone. One night during Thanksgiving break, my parents sat me down to talk about the money aspect of my college of choice, how much money I would probably borrow, and how much money I would be making on average. They finished their talk by assuring me that if this is what I felt like God was calling me to, they would support me and cheer me on the whole way through but I really needed to sit back and consider whether or not this was truly God's plan for me.
I burst into tears. The fact of the matter was that I had made the decision, I was going to pursue what I wanted to do. Now, it's not that I wasn't asking God what His will was because I was. What was happening was I was saying, "God please show me what to do," and then moving on with my day. I didn't sit and listen to what He was saying. I had ignored God until the point where He knew He needed to get my attention and began to take drastic measures: He took my peace and took my sleep. As soon as I admitted what was going on in my heart and mind, the Lord gave me instant peace.
To be honest, I didn't know what I was going to do. I knew what I wasn't going to do. Physical therapy wasn't for me. Graphic design was a bust and the Lord said "no" to seminary very early on (that's another story for another day). I prayed and prayed and prayed and this time I listened. I had to humble myself and admit that I didn't have it all going on and didn't know what on earth I was doing and needed Him to show me.
Through His word and putting people in path, the Lord revealed to me that I was to go to school to be a teacher. I paid my deposit to Campbell University and emailed my advisor to change my major a week before orientation.
Here was my plan for CU going into orientation:
Elementary Education major
Graduate, teach second grade for one year
THEN start grad school
Grad degree: Elementary Education
What actually happened:
Elementary Education major
Middle Grades English Education extension
STRAIGHT into graduate school
Grad degree: Reading Instruction AND Community College Instruction with a minor in teaching English as a Second Language
Oh, by the way, I don't really want to teach second grade anymore. Middle school stole my heart, y'all.
Now tell me, how much of that was what I wanted initially? Very, very little. When God started changing the plan on me, I could've had two reactions:
1. Say, "God, no. This isn't the plan. You can't do this to me. I won't do it."
2. "God, if this is your will, change my heart and make it line up with yours."
To be honest, the first year of my college career, I was a hard and fast #1. BUT that summer, I realized that being go gung-ho about "the plan" was me not trusting God. I had preached at my girls in Sunday School and in my discipleship class at the time that they needed to trust God in all things and I wasn't doing it at all. So then, I slowly but surely changed to #2. It hasn't always been easy to step out in faith when I can't see the next two steps in front of me. Honestly, there's a lot of unknowns when you follow God in anything, not just college.
While this isn't exactly what I thought I wanted, this is exactly where I'm supposed to be: right in the center of His will. If your heart's desire is to follow God and to love and serve Him with all that you are, do not stress. I know it's easier said than done. To follow Him was my desire but initially, I wasn't doing that. BUT GOD. Man, He used whatever it took to bring me back to center, to focus my eyes back on Him, and to trust and follow Him. He'll do the same for you.
August of 2013 I started one of the greatest, most difficult adventures of my life and I'm so excited to share those tough lessons I learned with you. Hopefully, you'll learn from me and not make the same mistakes I did.
You are so loved and I am praying for each and every one of you as you seek the will of God in your lives.