Faith Friday- Cortlyn

Cortlyn's the girl who reminds you of sunshine, lives and breathes coffee dates, wakes up early and makes you want to do the same, and asks more questions than you can comprehend. She's my best friend, and the best role model. Thank you, Cortlyn, for this Faith Friday!  15937021_1296303093777760_1140067614719163053_o

Here’s the thing: When Liz asked me to write about the definition of Faith, at first, I thought to myself, “oh this will be easy peasy lemon squeezy.” To me who thought that I say this, “HA!” I spend days thinking on what truly IS faith. Truth be told, I don’t have one single definition that can efficiently sum up the word “faith.” Instead, I have a few words that can only try to describe faith. Faith is indefinable. Being our human self, we can but only throw around synonyms that attempt to define faith.

Synonym One: Unique.

Faith is unique- unique to each and every individual. People come to faith from all different backgrounds. To some, faith is something they grew up on. To others, faith is something that saved them. Faith is a destination, however, there are multiple different paths and back roads to reach this endpoint. When I say endpoint, I don’t mean once you reach faith, your life stops. (NO!) Instead, your life begins. It’s the end of your old life and the beginning of your new life. Keep in mind, there is no required “look” to have faith. You don’t have to be the typical Chaco rockin’, flannel wearin’, Eno chillin’ Christian. All you need to do is accept God and let faith guide you off the path you came from onto the path God has paved out for you.

Synonym Two: Home

Faith is a home- a place to find comfort. As a college student, we are taken out of our daily comforts of home and thrown into a world of new and uncomfortable situations. We no longer have our mother or father to do our laundry, fix us meals, or better yet force us to go to church. This being said, we are given the opportunity to find God on our own. We learn to find comfort in God and allow him to take home in our hearts. Often times in college, you are faced with a whole new set of temptations. NEWS FLASH: WE SIN. (Surprise!) We mess up. We fall short of the glory of God, however, we can find comfort in God. Although we sin, we can look to the cross and know that God has forgiven us. Disclaimer: this does not mean we have a free passageway to sin. Living in sin is miserable. We mess up, we feel crappy, we begin to see ourselves as inadequate, however, once again, we can lookup at the cross and find comfort in knowing He is a forgiving God. As the devil knows your name but calls you by your sin, God knows your sin but calls you by your name. Plant a home in God’s heart and let God plant a home in yours.

Synonym Three: Mutual

Faith is not a junior high relationship, where one person puts in more effort than the other. Faith needs and must be a mutual relationship. I once heard a quote, “God will lead you where he wants you to be, but you have to talk to him daily to see where he wants you to go. The key is prayer.” We cannot be a lukewarm Christian. Well, we can, however, we will never experience the fullness of God, if so. Revelation 3: 15-16 states, “‘I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were either cold or hot! So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth.” We must do life with Jesus. Jesus should not be a part of YOUR life, but rather you be a part of HIS life. Be in complete submission to God. Live in Him. Pray to him. Walk life knowing God is walking right beside you. Pray to him about everything. Heck, pray that you get a free coffee that day. Point is: let God be a part of every aspect of your life no matter how little or how large. Communication is key in any relationship. Therefore, communicate with God daily.

Remember: My words cannot, even in the most minutest way, describe faith. We can’t define faith, however we do have the option for faith to define us. I highly suggest you consider it!

-Hugs & Kisses, Cortlyn Bates

Faith Friday - Maddy

Maddy makes me understand the word faithful better. She'll put her life on hold to help a friend, fill everyone's life with better stories, and beg that everyone share theirs. She loves well, and consistently tries to understand the Lord as person, rather than idea. She is consistent, vibrant, and dedicated. And she's a stinking great writer to boot.   What does my faith mean to me?

I would normally start answering this question by taking you through a general timeline of my life with Jesus. I would talk about how and when I was introduced to Jesus, the times I felt stagnant, the times I felt growth. I would tell you about the people who impacted me. The ways that Jesus slowly but surely peeled away the grave clothes, the old self, and revealed to me my new self, my new identity as a child of God. All of those are good things, but time is pressing, and God is doing things right now. Things I could have never dreamed up or imagined on my own (Habakkuk 1:5 " Look at the nations and watch- and be utterly amazed. For I am going to do something in your days that you would not believe, even if you were told.") God promises you and I many things, but my favorite among these is the promise of amazement.

Don't you hate that word? Amazing. So overused, worn out. It's lost its true meaning now that a cup of coffee, a new car, and an entire mountain range can all be hastily labeled "amazing." But I would like to propose that God, promising that we will "watch and be utterly amazed" intends for a feeling nothing short of its dictionary definition- "causing great surprise or sudden wonder."

If you identify yourself as a Christian, you know what it's like to doubt. You know what it's like to have a moment when you seemingly step outside of yourself and think, "is this really true?" "do I really believe this?" "does some God, some Father, really love me and look after me?" I think you would be lying to yourself if you haven't doubted before.

The reason for that is because it’s almost too good to be true. We know we are broken. I know more than anyone that I am a complete and utter mess. I am the least deserving of this thing called Eternal Life. But God sent His Son Jesus Christ to earth. Jesus was fully Man and fully God. He healed, He taught, He never once gave into Sin. Then He fulfilled what he came here to do. He took all the brokenness of the entire world upon his shoulders. Oh if I could put a weight to my brokenness and sin it would be an insurmountable quantity. Jesus graciously took that quantity for every single person who ever was, is, and will be on this earth, He left nobody out; nobody's sin was too much for Him. Nothing anyone could ever do would be too much for Him. He died the death we deserve, and then rose up out of the grave three days later. This Jesus took our Sin, better yet, defeated it. And He would do it a thousand times over even if it were just for you. He did this because He loves you.

See, this Jesus has left us with no choice but to stand in amazement. He left us no choice but to experience great surprise and sudden wonder. And our Father promises that He will do something in our days that we would not believe, even if we were told. The best part of it that I can’t even wrap my head around is that we don’t even deserve it! We are creatures that are “prone to wander, prone to leave the God we love” and we do it every single day! And He STILL loves us!! There is no greater joy than this.

I have seen God do incredible things in my years, an immense amount in the past year, and especially in the past few months. He has given me my identity, He has answered my prayers, He has given me a new confidence. He has brought opportunity after opportunity before me, leaving me with more joy every day. Story Time!! A good and almost laughable example of this is the day I started writing this post for Liz. For the first time since being back at school, I had a little anxiety (something God has been chipping at and making beautiful in me for years now). I felt lonely and I felt like all my friends had plans. My roommates were having people over, so I needed to get out and go to a coffee shop and start writing this. I went to Bennu but they were remodeling, and of course God wanted me specifically at Thunderbird, down the road so I went there. I walked in, ordered my coffee, and the barista, probably out of habit, asked me what I came there to work on. I told her I was working on a blog post about faith for my friend’s blog. She asked me what I meant. I told her “my friend asks her friends to write what their faith means to them. Most of the responses are related to the Christian faith. So I am going to write about my faith in Jesus, how He saved me, and the things He has done in my life over the years.” She told me that was encouraging to hear and that she was glad I came. Ten minutes later, she walked up to my table and set a piece of paper down with her info on it and a line on the bottom that read, “I love Jesus, too!” She asked me to send her my writing when I was done. Instead, after I finished the rough draft, I went up to the counter and read it to her. We talked about it, talked about our home churches, and she invited me to come to her women’s bible study on Thursday mornings at 7:00. Her name is Kamryn, and since then we have had coffee, I have been to two of the bible studies, and one of the church services at her church. I love the women that meet on Thursdays, and I’m eager to attend her church again this Sunday. Little does Kamryn know I was feeling lonely that day I walked in. Little does she know I had been praying for  a women’s group not associated with my church or younglife. Little did she know she was being used as a vessel for God to answer my prayers and ultimately cause amazement. I left the coffee shop that night with a grin on my face and tears in my eyes. I got in my car and laughed. I couldn’t believe how God had surprised me, how He had so specifically answered my prayers. It was one of the many times lately that I felt so underserving but so grateful. And being God, you can guess He wasn’t done there. I called my sister on the way home to tell her what happened (the joy He gives is always worth telling). To my surprise, she had gone through a similar day of anxiety, uneasiness, and loneliness. She told me that story was so encouraging, she even cried while on the phone. God. Loves. You. He chases you, does things to grab your attention and better yet, He does things to bring you amazement. He doesn’t promise amazement all the time, in fact He tells us in John 16:33, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

To me, there is nothing I would rather have faith in. Believe in. Trust in. Put my hope in. Ultimately, there is nothing and no one I would rather devote my life to. Committing my life to Christ and having faith in him to me, means waking up every morning, and being utterly amazed. Sitting up in my bed and being surprised by the work he has done and the work he is doing. Having sudden wonder at how someone can Love the way he Loves me. It means waking up and knowing I am promised infinitely more than what this world can offer.

He has freely given us more than we could ever dream, when we know we are the least deserving. What more could I ask for really? And because of that, I long to be with Him. I seek to follow Him. He leaves me with no choice but to have messy and beautiful faith in Him.

Love,

Maddy

 

 

A Better Picture

In 1892, the pledge of allegiance was created, and the words "I pledge allegiance to my flag" were the first words Americans recited. img_7234

In 1924, a simple substitution was made. "I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America," became the country's new battle cry.

My became the because America was a melting pot of people, wandering in a new land, and missing their homelands. These immigrants were taking the words "my flag" and thinking back to their homes. They were pondering over the country they left instead of fully committing to the place they were now.

I sit here, reading this section of my government textbook, and cannot help but relate this tendency to remain comfortable, with my own experience. I make "my God" the ultimate one. I tend to equate my experiences, and the ways I have been reprimanded/listened to/communicated with in the past, into the ways I will always be. I make my experiences the only way that God will connect; this can be a problem for me in a different stage of life, or for people with differing situations.

Instead of worshipping God, I worship the way he rescued me from an experience. Or, I obsess over the way He lovingly provided for me. I thank Him for being "my God", instead of understanding that this is just a facet of who He is. He is also "the God". He is the ultimate choice, answer, and reason. He does not just encompass my experiences, but everyone else' as well.

For this reason, I need to start worshipping "the God". I can learn from my own life, but that does not stop me from learning about other people's experience as well. I must look at my life, as well as theirs, to see the many ways that God communicates. Above all, I need to read His words, and understand that the God painted there, is more wrathful, righteous, kind, and just, than what I may experience personally. By missing out on this complete picture of Him, I miss out on Him. I only get "my God", rather than "the God".

When I can embrace the fullness of who He says he is, I can stop looking back at my own country, own life, own mistakes and joys, and start looking forward to a more complete picture. A better picture, full of indescribable potential.

Love, Liz

Faith Friday - Josh

I spent most days this summer interning alongside Josh; though I tend to pick on his school choice, I loved seeing how he pursued Christ. I spent every day being encouraged, and now continue to learn from him through his analysis of faith. Enjoy!  It has become ingrained in me to start every conversation or introduction with HOWDY so considering the unfortunate reality that we’re not all Aggies, I’m a little concerned how this intro will go. Oh well.

I’m Josh, and I am a grade “A” sinner. I struggle with pride, jealousy, selfishness, lust, fear, worry, doubts, anxiety, laziness, envy, idolatry, anger, and everything in between. I am about as jacked up, messed up, and broken as anybody out there. I am a sophomore at Texas A&M University and love to travel anywhere I can, I enjoy playing any kind of sport or game that’s ever been made up, my friends and family are fuel and keep me going. I am a huge advocate for excessive laughing, cute puppies and frequent naps, though, most importantly I am a son of God and have been saved by the blood of my savior, Jesus Christ.

Usually I can be found smiling, laughing, joking, and just being a total goofball, which is a big part of who I am. However those who know me best know that I truly love the quieter times and prefer to keep to myself. I have a huge admiration of leadership and pouring into people and in return being able to watch them thrive is one of the greatest joys to me. I often overthink and analyze every situation and try to understand why things are the way they are and why God arranged them in such a way. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve quickly discovered how little I know, and through my brokenness and confusion God has shined through and given me a passion for figuring stuff out.

So that’s who I am, and with that little background check out of the way, you hopefully understand how completely unqualified I am to be writing this. But this isn’t about me, it’s about “what faith means to me”, or at least that is what Lizzey wants this to be about… we’ll see if I get anywhere close.

This past summer, I was honored to be one of three interns at my Church back home, and by being around incredible God honoring men and women for 40+ hours a week, I was deeply inspired to pursue who God is. My goal was not to just know about God, but rather seeking to know him fully, so that he may permeate every facet of my life, spilling over into how I speak, think, and act. God never ceases to fulfil his promises to us. Seeking to draw nearer to him has paved the way for him to provide some of the most incredible friends and relationships, leadership and service opportunities, and indescribable joy and comfort that can only be found in being completely surrendered to God.  To begin, I set out to read C.S. Lewis’ “Mere Christianity”. This beast of a paperback stretched me to the brink of mental and spiritual capacity every time I opened the cover and in Lewis’ commentary, he addresses some of the largest and most difficult topics we humans can conjure up; predestination, God outside of time, the Trinity and how it functions, etc. One of the topics that was covered was faith, both in its simplistic, dictionary terms, and also what it means for Christians. God has used C.S. Lewis’ words to greatly transform my thoughts and influence the way I view life, so if you are curious as to where I get my opinions, look no further.

To be able to offer my thoughts of what faith means to me, I think it’s imperative to explore first what faith even is. Being the lazy college kid that I am my first reaction was to simply google it, and this is what my extensive, laborious research has uncovered. The first definition that google uses to define the word faith is “complete trust or confidence in someone or something” which really makes good sense.  I’m not sure why I was expecting something extravagant or hilariously false. Faith based off of the worlds standards fit that definition perfectly; trust or confidence in something or someone.

However, there is a tragic downfall to blissfully adopting this definition. Our faith is not just merely trusting or confidence in someone. We have no ordinary faith. Our faith is life changing and life giving, a faith that God the creator sent his son Jesus Christ to die a brutal death on the cross for our sins, past, present, and future. And that Jesus rose from the grave defeating hell, death, and sin and ascended into heaven but is coming back for us and those who believe in Him may have eternal life and live in perfect unity with Christ in heaven.

It’s a lot to sink in, but our faith is much more than what a dictionary or search engine says, our faith is a matter of eternal consequences, life and death are on the line. This is not an opinion of what faith is from my perspective…

This is what faith is.

Our faith is the result of the gospel, the good news of Jesus Christ wrapped up in a little 5 letter, 1 syllable word. A verse in the 3rd chapter of the gospel of John, one of the most common examples for explicitly laying out the purpose of Christ’s life, reads as this, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” I’ve read and heard this verse so many times and I bet I’m not alone. The phrase “that whoever believes in him shall not perish…” is crucial to our walk with Jesus and while we’re talking about the word faith, we might as well examine the word used here, believe.

Contrary to popular belief, the New Testament was originally written in ancient Greek, not 21st century English. I did my homework and researched the translation of this verse, though focusing on the word believe. When translated, that word, believe, becomes a word called “pisteuōn” (πιστεύων). Don’t ask me how to pronounce it, but in the original language, it also means “faith”. This Greek word was special and is used 24 times in the Bible, each of them illustrating the relationship for which we have with Jesus Christ. Outside of our faith in Jesus, the word “pisteuōn” is not used, showing that this faith we have in Jesus does not apply to other circumstances or situations. Our faith in Christ all powerful, never ceasing, never failing, and far more certain than anything this world can offer.

But there’s more to this fascinating revelation. Since this unique faith of ours is greater than the world’s idea, it surely cannot originate from this broken Earth. Spoiler alert, it doesn’t! Our faith is a gift to us by Christ. He gives it freely and speaks through those who already have faith to seek out to those who do not yet have faith so that they too may believe in Christ, be redeemed, and experience the joy of eternal life as well. Our God has graciously given us the gift, and God has plans for us to utilize this gift so that we may enjoy complete satisfaction living a life not for ourselves, but for our perfect redeemer and King. I’m not the best at math, but I do understand that after adding these parts together, the result is that we should be encouraged. The Creator loves us enough to personally give us faith in his son Jesus Christ so that we may be fully equipped to do things according to his plans which are far better than anything we could even imagine. Be encouraged.

Writing this has been an incredible amount of fun, which is unusual for me, but I am very thankful for opportunity to share my thoughts on what faith means. I pray that all you people (Aggies and non-ags alike) would be reminded and encouraged by how graciously blessed and loved we are by Jesus Christ.

Gig’em and God bless

“Who is it that overcomes the world? Only the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God.”               (1st John 5:5)

Our faith is unique.

“By grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God.” (Ephesians 2:8)

By the grace of God he gives us faith.

“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”

(Joshua 1:9)

Be encouraged.

- Josh

The Badge of Busyness

I have been wanting to write this post for a while, but I have been too busy. Far too busy. And I'm guessing, if you have talked to me in the past couple of weeks, I would have let you know that. img_9549

I polled a few people in my life for words that defined their semester. Answers were diverse, poetic, and idealized versions of what we were each striving for this semester. Words such as purpose, and stillness, and focus. Yet, if you ask someone on an individual day how their day is going, more often than not, the word you'll hear is not poetic or idealized. It is "busy". We sigh, cry, and laugh at our own busyness, but we make sure, above all, that it is known.

Why do we wear the badge of busyness? Why do we insist, before people hear anything about our days, that they hear about our stress? I have a theory about stress: if we stop talking about it, it stops defining us. We can describe our days, share our google calendars, be honest about our emotional responses to the activities happening around us. But our days, and ourselves, cannot be summed up in adjectives. We wear a badge that makes us blend into the crowd; rather than allowing people to get to know us, it puts up a wall before we even get to know the person. People will not want to burden the already "busy" person, so they won't. They will step back, say hi when necessary, share their sympathy at your plight, while saying the exact same things themselves.

The thing if, we're all busy. We are all busy with life, and school, and friendships. We are all quick to share our stressed out selves, rather than sharing our stories. If we started sharing our stories, we'd get a lot more than sympathy. We would probably develop more friendships, more impactful relationships, and receive some help along the way. There is nothing more refreshing than a person who is honest. Our badge of busyness is not honest; it defines our life in a word, rather than being clear about the areas of our life that have picked up the pace.

Our life is not busy. It is hectic, and dramatic, and heartbreaking, and joyous, and precious because of the gift of Christ. Our busyness simplifies lives that our unique and powerful testimonies to who God is. Before we wear the badge of busyness, we need to wear the badge of Christ, and determine who He calls us to be, and how He calls us to define ourselves.

Here's to living multi-faceted, fast-paced, maybe frantic, but not simply "busy", lives.

Love, Liz

Placebo Effect

img_8689 I woke up this morning and watched the sun rise at Red Rocks Amphitheater in Denver, CO. It was my fifth sunrise this week, but the most exceptional, by far. It looked a lot like my image of God; vast, all-encompassing, warm. I could open up my Bible, and read a Psalm to the Lord in that moment, feeling a greater connection to Him than if I were sitting in my room at 2 p.m., trying to achieve the same effect.

I wake up early because I find God in sunrises. A placebo effect sets in and I believe that because I’m the first in my circle to appreciate the day, I’ve somehow set myself at an advantage for experiencing God.

I find the same thing in rules. I set extensive and intricate (and without-exception) rules for everyday life. They range from how I spend my mornings, who I spend my time with, when I can experience God, and what I’m allowed to invest in. I find my time with God more meaningful when I can set limits to how I will experience Him.

And this, this need for control, this need for “easy-access” of God is the problem. It’s wonderful when we can be in a moment and realize that we feel more connected to the Lord than we have in a while. It’s a breath of cool air to understand more about His desires than we did before. Yet, we do not find that because of rules or because of sunrises or because of a community of people. God can be elucidated in those moments; but, he is not those moments.

My rules can keep me from experiencing God. They stand right in front of Jesus, molded to look like our Savior, and yet so far from Him. They are unrelenting, instead of warm. They are harsh, instead of gracious. And unlike Him, they can be wrong. When I go to my rules instead of Jesus for my reasoning (“No thank you, because…”), I mold my life to my will. If I am to truly experience the truth of God, I cannot just apply his rules. I must apply Jesus HIMSELF to every situation.

“So we, too, have put our faith in Christ Jesus that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by the woks of the law, because by the works of the law no one will be justified.” Galatians 2:16

So now, I thank God for mornings, but let myself sleep in. I rejoice when I’m around my best friends, but am okay being alone. My life looks very similar to before, but now I have a lot less rules, and a lot more prayer. I pray continuously that my desire for control does not confine Jesus. I thank Jesus for being in moments, but I do not rely on those moments for Jesus. God is easily accessible, but not controllable. He can be found anywhere; He is not confined by my comfortable experiences.

“And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge- that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.” Ephesians 3:17-19

Love,

Liz

Faith Friday - Cade

Cade Hill gets asked if he's my brother 9/10 times, will fly to Colorado for the weekend to see NeedtoBreathe at Red Rocks, and pursues the Lord with adventure and abandon. He pushes everyone he knows to look towards Christ; thanks Cade for sharing!  Faith in its worldly form is defined as complete trust in something or someone. However if my faith, my life with Christ, was summed up by a Google definition I would not only have nothing to stand on but you would be reading a very short blog entry. To me Faith is best displayed through the testaments of God’s beloved children. After all a Christ follower’s faith is centered around the greatest story ever told in the center of a book filled to the brim with stories. The stories of Faith today possess the same importance and power as the stories that are written in every chapter of the Bible. I think it is safe to say that the Lord not only enjoys stories of faith but delights in using them to advance his kingdom to the ends of the earth. So here are a few stories that not only capture the essence of the most high God but display his characteristics and the ways that his children have faith in him.

I had the privilege of serving overseas this summer in Munich, Germany with a group of 15 high school and college students. Because I have never felt closer to God and had my faith stretched as much as during my time in Germany, I decided this would be a good place to start. The first story is about a Muslim refugee who brought his family to Germany to escape the battlefield that they once called home. For the sake of his safety we will call him Sam.

Sam met two of the girls with us several times throughout the summer; casually inviting them to meals with he and his wife and not much fruit had come about from the conversations. Then one day, unknowing that his last invite would be life altering, he invited the girls to the river. During their time together the conversation quickly turned to the gospel. The girls shared the gospel and upon asking if this was something that he wanted to believe, Sam in his broken English and calmed spirit accepted Christ into his heart and invited his friend next to him to do the same. The next day before baptizing him we asked him why he wanted to be baptized. In an almost annoyed tone he responded, “Because I want to show that I have new life!” Sam reminded me that faith is not a simple definition nor is it meant to be something that only the most devout theologians can possess. Sam showed me in the midst of converting from Islam to a follower of Jesus that Faith is not something that you can reason or question but is like an ever growing flower: rooted in the gospel always growing outward and upward.

This next story is about two of the girls with us and their amazing experience with language. Delaney had the opportunity to meet with a refugee woman named Joy and on a follow up visit she brought along Sky. Quickly diving into Joy’s faith journey, Joy began to have difficulty with English. Sky asked if she spoke any other languages and from there they decided on Italian. Knowing that Delaney could not speak Italian Sky proceeded in discussion. Their time ended and upon leaving Delaney looked at Sky and told her that she did not understand why Joy was worried about her English and that she thought her English was great. Sky, still in awe of what just happened, looked at her and said Delaney no it wasn’t. As they looked back at the experience it turns out that after deciding to speak Italian Joy only spoke in Italian and Delaney, never studying the language a day in her life, understood every word and thought that English was being spoken in the room. Delaney, Sky and Joy showed me that faith is not something that was only powerful in the days of Jesus but that the same Holy Spirit lives in each of us. Faith is not only a feeling but something that can be seen and heard in experiences like Delaney’s. Faith is believing that the radical and powerful stories of the bible are not reserved for the pages of the Bible but that the same power is still alive and present today.

This last story is not one that happened this summer but one that happened 2000 years ago and would radically change lives forever. This story is about a man named Jesus, his life and his ultimate, underserving sacrifice.

There was a man named Jesus who walked the earth many years ago. God sent his one and only son Jesus down to the earth in order to save his people that could not save themselves. Jesus lived a perfect life without sin or rebellion against God. After living a perfect life, Jesus died on the cross to save us from our sins! The death of Jesus made a way for us to escape a life of bondage to sin, plagued with the empty pursuits of this world and eternal separation from God. Three days after his death, Jesus rose from the dead! God saw that we were unable to escape a life of brokenness so he sent a way for us to be one with him. Jesus was and is the answer. The story of our savior shows me that my faith in Jesus is like no other. I serve a savior that is no longer in the grave but at the right hand of God. My faith is not centered on my own efforts but the ultimate, perfect sacrifice of Jesus Christ.

My faith is ever growing. The Lord pursues us like a groom pursues his bride on their wedding day. He looks at us, sees our faults our fleshly desires, insecurities and hidden sins and yet he still says RUN TO ME! My faith is centered on two pursuits. My pursuit of Jesus followed by my pursuit of man and telling them the good new of Jesus Christ. Come join me!

 

Best,

Cade Hill

 

Faith Friday- Michael

I was blessed to spend this summer with people who pushed me in my faith. Not necessarily in conversations, or convictions, but in emulation. Michael was a fellow intern; every day he emulated Jesus and invited those around him to join!  Having faith is never the easiest option, but it is always the best option.

My name is Michael, and I have spent my entire life growing up in a Christian home.  Growing up, my parents would always drag me to church, even on those Sunday mornings when I didn’t want to go (which was often back then).  But because of their diligence, I saw their love for Christ at an early age and their infectious hearts in following him.  God used them to make an impact early on in my life that following Christ was worth it.  I ended up completely submitting my life to Christ during a Craig Groeschel sermon when I was 12 years old, and I followed in baptism when I was 14.  The problem was, I didn’t understand faith then.  My journey of understanding faith actual began a couple years ago.

I came to the faith when I was 12.  I was sure in my heart that God would save me because I asked Jesus to be my Lord and Savior.  But I confused the concept of ‘coming to the faith’ with the term ‘having faith.’  God doesn’t want any of us to just come to the faith.  He wants all of us to live lives of faith, completely trusting in his sovereign and redemptive plan.  Faith is not just a one-time event; faith is a lifetime of trusting in God to bring redemption and restoration in all situations, especially in the broken ones.  I didn’t open up my eyes to see God’s redeeming power in my own life until my second year of college.

Without going into too many details, I was in a silly high school relationship for 2 ½ years until my junior year.  Of course you are thinking, “Surely this isn’t going to be another high school sob story.”  Believe me it’s not, but it did cause a significant amount of pain in my life.  At this moment, the cumulative effect of a silly break-up and losing a grandfather really made me question God and his faithfulness.  I had never prayed so earnestly in my life for anything before, but I prayed every single night for my grandfather to heal, even though my parents and the doctors said that he wouldn’t make it much longer.  But I continued earnestly in prayer because the Bible says in Matthew 7.7-8, “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.” But the healing never came.   And my prayers for healing from the break-up did not seem to come as quickly as I had hoped either.  I was trapped inside this world of believing and trusting in a God who did not seem to care about my problems, and I began to question his faithfulness.

Fast forward three years.  After attending a community college for a year, I decided to go to Ozark Christian College, not knowing what I was getting myself into. You see, Ozark is a Bible college, and by Bible college, I mean we take classes that spend whole semesters focusing on certain books of the Bible, studying them one verse at a time.  While there, I became enamored once again with Jesus and who he was.  Like many people, Jesus had become ordinary for a large portion of my life. But by his grace, at Ozark his story became real and extraordinary to me once again.  Jesus went from being a small pebble on the side of the road that I occasionally kicked around to my solid rock. I could not fathom why the God of the universe would come into world in human form, emptying himself of all his privileges (Philippians 2), to rescue me and my brokenness.  It finally became personal.  God was in the business of fixing broken situations and redeeming them, including my sinfulness.  I knew that if Jesus would take my punishment upon himself, surely he would be in the process of redeeming every other situation in my life too.  And he has continued to do so.

My first encounter of this occurred at Ozark as I watched God use the broken relationship of my past to help a high school student going through a break-up that was eerily similar to mine.  I was able to pour into this young man the things I learned from my past, and I was able to watch as his relationship with Christ grew.  God redeemed my broken past by using it to help bring someone closer to him.  This was my first reminder that God is in the fixing business.

God was preparing me in that moment to recognize that he truly does care for his children and that he really is at work in the world, especially in the broken situations.  I needed that glimpse of God’s faithfulness because 1 year later, my (now) fiancée and I were in a head-on collision.  I came out with only a couple stitches, but the same cannot be said about Jonelle Delight.  She broke both of her femurs, shattered an ankle, broke some toes, and was in horrific pain for months.  I then watched over the next year as she fought her way back to being able to walk and jog again.  It really was only by the grace of God that we both survived, and she is now able to jog without too much pain.  But I would be lying if I said I didn’t have a flurry of emotions and questions that I expressed to God that year: Why her?  Why now?  How could you?  Why would you?  Why not me?

But throughout the whole experience, I remembered that God was in the redeeming business.  I remembered that he loved to fix broken situations.  And I watched as he helped Jonelle find her identity in him.  And I watched as our families grew closer together through this situation.  And I watched as Jonelle and I’s relationship became stronger than ever.  And I watched as her family welcomed me into her family.  And a little more than one year after that Easter night, I watched as Jonelle said yes to marrying me.

Sometimes we forget that God really is a good and faithful Father.  To me, faith is trusting that God will redeem any broken situation because he wants to and loves to.  Even though having faith in these broken situations isn’t the easiest option, it is by far the best option.

God bless,

Michael.

 

 

 

Faith Friday: Rory

I spent this summer interning at my home church: the church that brought me to know Christ, fostered the beginning of my love for Him, and has since matured me immensely. The pastors and fellow interns I worked with taught me about community and the gentle mocking that occasionally comes from true care and unity. During a mid-day meeting, and in a bout of mocking, one of my pastors brought up my blog. After about ten minutes of scrolling, he jokingly asked to write a Faith Friday. Little did he know that I would actually follow up on the offer.  When I began exploring the textures of faith, I wasn't sure what I was getting myself into. Even more so, when I volunteered to write this post, I thought answering the question “what does faith mean to me” would be much simpler than it has been. I’ve sat on this question for nearly a week — thought about it, chewed on it, wrote notes about it, and even as I write this, am not sure how to answer it. When I asked my wife this question, she said, “I don't know, I'm looking at insurance quotes right now.” So, there's that.

I have been in and out of a faith community my whole life. As a child, I attended a Lutheran Church with my mom. This was a church filled with an organ, candles, pastors with robes and sashes, and music that sounded like the Opera — this became my definition of Hell early on in life. In other words, I had no faith there.

From the age of ten to sixteen, I didn't care about faith at all. I was a teenager, which meant I mostly cared about girls, the newest Kanye West album, basketball, and how to keep track of my homework assignments that I probably didn't do in the first place.

At the age of sixteen, I was reintroduced to the Church. I had an experience that transcended everything I had believed about faith: it wasn't meant to be stuffy, it wasn't meant to fit in a perfect box, it was meant to bring me to a place of wonder — about God, about Jesus, about this life here,now and the future of humanity.

We’re going to start with this: faith isn't simple. It’s meant to be messy, filled with questions, and it’s often unexplainable. There's a great story in the Bible (yes, that book) about a man named Elisha and a soldier named Naaman. Naaman is the commander of a great army, of a great country, but Naaman himself wasn’t so great. He had leprosy — a skin disease that resulted in blisters, boils and skin disfigurations all over a person’s body. Naaman travels all the way from his home to the home of Elisha, who was considered a prophet in his homeland (a prophet being someone who was deeply connected to God). When Naaman reaches Elisha’s home he expects the prophet to come out, say a few words, and heal him of his illness. But like most great stories of faith, that isn't how this goes. Elisha sends out a messenger who tells Naaman to go to the Jordan River and wash in it seven times, all with the assurance that this will heal his disease.

This antidote doesn't sit well with Naaman, so he leaves in utter disgust. Now, we’ve all been here: that place where life already doesn't look the way it supposed to look, and yet, faith tells us to keep going. Naaman’s servants are confused by the frustration. They question their boss, “Are you not going to do it? The prophet simply said ‘wash and be clean?’” Naaman’s servants seem so deeply moved by the words of the prophet that they HAVE to begin questioning what they already think and believe about life. In doing so, they cause Naaman to listen to what Elisha instructed him to do. So he went down and dipped himself seven times in the Jordan, and his skin was restored like the flesh of a child, and he was clean. This obviously screws with Naaman. Let's be honest, what would you do if this moment occurred in your life? You’d probably lose it a little. But Naaman’s response isn't one of insanity; it's one of faith. Naaman comes back to Elisha and says to him, “I know that there is no God in all the earth but in Israel.”

The reason that I tell this story is because I believe it offers a beautiful picture of what a growing faith looks like. Naaman asks Elisha a bizarre question: “can I take this pile of dirt?” You think I’m kidding, but I’m not. Naaman says, “…please let there be given to your servant two mule-loads of earth, for from now on your servant will not offer burnt offering or sacrifice to any god but the Lord.”  Faith forces you to take it with you.

I offer my answer to the question of “what does faith mean to me?” through the lens of this story for a few reasons. First, this is my story. I had been taught my whole life that faith was made to fit in a box — that God, and whatever that loaded noun means, was meant to be packaged in a container and held by people who had it figured out. This wasn't true because faith isn't that simple. Having faith in anything isn't simple. It’s filled with skepticism, questions, it's messy, and it's almost always not easily explained. The 16-year-old me learned this, and the 23-year-old me is still learning. Second, faith forced me to take it with me. When I experienced God for the first time, I knew that my experience of him couldn't stop there, but that it had to keep going. I needed to take the “dirt” of that moment with me, remember it, and share it. I hope that I have. I hope that the faith that I have carried has been recognized by others — that it has made them ask questions and ponder the reality of something far greater than themselves.

While I feel like I’ve said a whole lot without really saying anything at all, I’ll leave you with this: faith is trusting that this life is headed somewhere. And I would love to explain that to you as a reader, but where’s the fun in that? Think about it.

Rory

To Love is hard; To Love oneself is harder

Of the two commandments that Jesus claimed to be of utmost importance, in both, he emphasized love. While to "love your neighbor as yourself" can be hard because of the myriad personalities in this world, what happens when the opposite is difficult? What happens to us, and the administration of grace, when it is harder to love yourself than to love others? In this case, I'm not talking about respecting yourself, caring for your body, or any of the other ways we can neglect ourselves. I'm talking about the ways we are cruel to our own thoughts, expect perfection, and demand immediate results in a way that we would never expect from others. How we deny grace to ourselves when we would shower it on others.

I think this line of the Bible can often be construed as only an outward administration of truth and grace. Logically, we understand that both need to be delivered in equal measure, and at appropriate times. However, when we turn this verse around, we realize that the opposite is also true. We love others because we know it is what God wants; we forget He wants us to love ourselves in the same way. He desires for us to speak truth into ourselves and forgive ourselves when our minds wander; when we feel far from Him and far from what is right.

And we combat this tendency to beat ourselves up with truth. We write out what is wrong, pray with candid earnestness, read the Bible diligently, and wait. We hold off on action until we feel right with God. We hold back from making a move until we have learned what the Bible tells us is the next step. We do not get mad that our minds have not caught up to God's mind yet. We administer grace day by day to our own hearts and minds; we trust that God will change our thoughts to align with His. So we speak truth, administer grace, and love; we love ourselves like we try to love others. And we remind ourselves that we, as much as anyone else, deserve it.

Love, Liz

Faith Friday - Missy

This faith Friday means the world to me. Missy was my first friend in college and I had the privilege to see her move from darkness to light. In only a few months, she has become a beacon for Christ and a complete powerhouse of faith. I am so lucky to learn from her daily! IMG_0808

It’s crazy how my thoughts on faith have changed so much in such a short time.  Ask me what I thought of faith five months ago, I would have never attributed it to God.  I would say faith is believing in myself and others to do what is best.  While still true, now I’ve learned that faith is believing and trusting in GOD and that HE will provide what is best for me.   “Do not conform to the ways of the world, instead be transformed by the renewing of your mind in Christ Jesus.  Then you will be able to test and approve his will – his good, pleasing, and perfect will.” (Romans 12:2).  Just like he transformed my quick idea of faith, He’s transformed me when I wasn’t even searching for it.  Jesus was praying for me, before I even knew His name.  That’s pretty cool if you ask me.

I grew up in a nonreligious home in LA, had never heard the gospel, and had never been to church.  With this, going to college in Texas, or “The Bible Belt”, was quickly eye opening.  Little did I know this journey to the Lone Star State was a part of God’s journey in transforming me to run to Him.  But the path didn’t start there.  He has been walking beside me my whole life, just waiting for the right time to have me to run into His open arms.  And freshman year was that time.  I first heard someone talk about God the first week at school, where my first friend told me she was making a decision based on her faith in God.  Faith? In God??? I basically choked on my hot cheetos.  Hearing someone talk about God and having faith in God was so foreign to me, and to be honest freaked me out.  But wow did God place that friend in my life for a reason (and big shocker, this was Liz).  While I was really uncomfortable by what she was telling me, I look back and see this as a prime example that we aren’t supposed to be comfortable with God.  A friend explained this verse to me, which captures it perfectly: “For I know the plans for you’ says the Lord.  ‘They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you future and hope’” (Jeremiah 29:11).  She explained how it doesn’t say his plans will make us comfortable, but they are plans for good.

By halfway through second semester, I had gone to church for the first time, read through the book of Matthew, witnessed the community God provides for us, and finally accepted Christ in February 2016.  While I accepted Jesus as my savior then, my faith really became my own this summer.  Ask anyone and I would have told them the last place I wanted to be was home this summer.  I didn’t have anywhere near the community I had at UT, no church, and my family didn’t know I was a Christian.  Sounds fun right?  I had no idea God had such greater blueprints in store.  I had one friend I was going to rely heavily on over the summer, who I knew was very strong in her faith.  Within days of being home, she broke it to me she was going to camp for 3 weeks, then moving to Oregon.  I thought: God why? Why would you take the one person I share faith with at home away from me? I was shown clearly for the first time God’s plan come into action. I needed to be uncomfortable.  I had the biggest cushion at UT of people I was sharing faith with, but didn’t know anything about my own faith.  And boy did He provide.  “He reached out and caught him.  You of little faith, he said, why did you doubt? ”Matthew 14:31.  When I was doubting my ability to be able to have a faith without community, He reached out and caught me.  While community is so important, having it taken away has been one of God’s greatest gifts to me.  I found myself going to the Word when I previously would have gone to a friend.  I now talk to God where I would have previously talked to a fellow believer.  Being uncomfortable is what faith is about.  When you are uncomfortable, you learn to rely on God, to have faith in Him and learn that only true comfort can be found in Him. No worldly thing compares to the comfort and love He consistently showers us with.

While this summer has still been a struggle in being comfortable to be outward with my faith, I have been given more confidence and sparked more conversations because of the faith He has instilled in me.  Conversations I would have been ashamed of or embarrassed by, I’m excited by.  Even writing this is a big, new step, so bear with me!  In one of my favorite songs “Gracious Redeemer”, it says “He made a way for us, He made a way for me”.  While this way may not have been anything I expected, it is THE WAY.  And having faith in His way is the greatest comfort you will ever receive.  For we have a Lord, “our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles” (2 Corinthians 1:3).  He had COMPASSION for me when I didn’t even know His name or believe in Him, yet He always COMFORTED, at UT by gracing me with incredible community, and at home with His constant love.  He made me uncomfortable.  He made me uncomfortable when Lizzey first told me about Him, He made me uncomfortable when I decided to go to church for the first time, He made me uncomfortable when he sent me home without a community in the summer.  But through all of this discomfort, He gave me the greatest comfort of all – my faith.  Paul closes 2 Corinthians 1 by saying, “It is by faith we stand firm”.  And indeed it truly is.

Love, Missy

Faith Friday (kind of)- Lauren

I love blogging because I get to explain myself in ways that I could not possibly just by speaking out loud. I get to elucidate lessons to myself and (hopefully) to others. However, I love this series because I get to sit back and be taught. Lauren Conroy is one of the most dedicated, faithful, and kind people I have ever met. And she happened to be my freshman year roommate! When she set out to read the entire Bible, I knew she would follow through. And she did. In less than 90 days. Just let that sink in.  I learned some much from living with her and now I get to share what she learned! The Lord is faithful in giving us teachers, and even more faithful in giving us good friends. 

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When I was 7 I was given a leather-bound, cherry red Bible. For years I used the bible sporadically, maybe once or twice a month. In the times where I was really feeling stressed, I would go to it, close my eyes and open to a random page hoping that it would “speak to me.” Rarely did I go to the Bible to study it and never did I appreciate its value. Like so many others, I didn’t fully grasp the notion that every word God intended for us to know, he put into the Bible, and that the Bible is God’s way of speaking directly to us.

I wanted to define my Freshman year in some way. It’s easy to let yourself get wrapped up in the college experience and “skip religion” for just a couple of years. You promise yourself that you’ll be more faithful later on, but now is really not the time for that. The fact of the matter is that that’s not how it works. The Bible says, to not “let anyone look down on you because you are young, but to set an example in speech, in love, in faith and in purity.” 1 Timothy 4:12 That’s why in January I made a concerted effort to spend a lot more time in The Word. I split up the Bible into 88 sections and for that many days I read every single night.

Obviously there is A LOT to be taken away from the Bible. There are thousands and thousands of lessons that God uses it to teach us. For me, there are three main points that God used it to reveal to me.  

#1 God is not meant to be understood.

One of the reasons that I decided to read the Bible was because I thought it may give me a better understanding of God. Before completing it, I always wondered why I needed to pray when my future is predetermined and God already knows what He wants to do with my life. I let this question get in the way of my reliance on Him. But now I understand that God is not meant to be understood and that the complexity of His ways are beyond human comprehension. Attempting to figure out how he works is the same as attempting to comprehend infinity. There is no possible way.  If I spend my time trying to understand why and how God does what He does, I will always come up disappointed. The only way to give Him control over my life is through faith. Faith is about belief in the things we can’t see or understand. It is about accepting our role as sheep in God’s flock. We must follow the lead of Abraham and Moses and Paul, and trust that what He does and how He does it is in our best interests.

“Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God’s command, so that what is seen was not made out of what is visible.” Hebrews 11:1-3

#2 We are living for God and not us.

Time and time again in the Bible, humans decided that they were going to do what would make them happy. They worshipped false Gods, they were adulteress, they lived to self-satisfy. They took advantage of the many blessing that God had given to them. They failed to realize that God provides for us so that we can glorify Him. Our role as Christians on this Earth is to show people God’s love and to worship Him in every way possible. As humans, it is only natural that we think first about ourselves in all of our decisions. But, as difficult as it is, all of our decisions should be made with the goal of serving God. We often forget that this life is not about how much glory we can bring to our own names, but about how much glory we can bring to His name. We live in a “treat yourself” society where everything we do, we do with the purpose of making ourselves happy. We avoid uncomfortable situations and we ignore what we know God is trying to tell us because we would rather satisfy our own wants than His needs. The reality is that without God, we wouldn’t even be here. We owe our lives to Him.

“Direct me in the path of your commands, for there I find delight. Turn my heart towards your statutes and not toward selfish gain.” Psalms 119: 35-36

#3 Humans are imperfect. We will disappoint God time after time, but he will always love us.

The entire Bible is made up of the same story over and over again; humans are suffering, God rescues them, humans disregard his help. It astounds me the amount of times that humans reject God. No matter how much He does for them, they refuse to worship Him. The Israelites were saved from slavery and safely delivered to their promised land and they STILL found flaws in God’s tactics. They STILL sinned against him and worshipped other gods. Originally I was shocked that God would continue to love such sinful people, and then I was grateful. I realized that as many blessings as God has provided for me, I still sin. As many times as he has saved me from hardship and brought me joy, I continue to defy his name. There is no way that I could ever express the gratitude I feel when I think about God’s unconditional love and his awesome and never-ending forgiveness. I am so flawed but because of Jesus’s sacrifice for me I am allowed to spend eternity with the most perfect being that exists. “I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8:38-3

Love, Lauren

But,

It's not that easy. IMG_7250

But, it's also not that hard. Sometimes, we spend so much time dissecting faith that we stop trying to live it. So much time obsessed with the minutia of how could God possibly want this, rather than accepting that what God wants is for us to love others, care for them, hurt with them, and turn towards them. We can spend hours discussing whether God wants us to avoid certain people or obey certain restrictions, rather than seeking to follow His greatest command. His command is for us to love, to spread his name amongst other people, and to remember that it is not by our power that we are saved.

I find that when I start prioritizing this, I stop trying to be a rule follower. I simply become one. When I start trying to enjoy God, I start obeying Him. The more time I spend digging into the Word, the more I want to do what it says.

Sometime we put a "but," where God does not. He does not say that our faith is a complex monster needed to be named, caged, and self-tested. Our faith needs to be flexed; it needs to be  reiterated amongst our friends, and practiced among strangers. It needs to be a faith full of love and enjoyment of God. The rules will follow. The rest will follow. The only "But," that God allows is this

"But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions--it is by grace you have been saved."

He did it all. He can handle our dissections and our minutia. Seek to enjoy and to experience God, and he will handle the rulebook.

Love, Liz

 

 

Loneliness vs Being Alone

I have a friend, Katherine, who is wise and wonderful. She wrote a beautiful Faith Friday for this blog, and continues to share her faith daily with me in new ways. She keeps me accountable to the gospel and responsible for my words 100% of the time. So the other day when she asked how home was and I responded “Lonely,” I was surprised when she asked “Good or Bad?” Lonely is lonely (so I thought). It’s not biblical, God does not call us to live in loneliness, and it’s detrimental to the heart and head. It sucks.

Yet, Katherine explained that our version of loneliness is often so different from God’s. There are periods of desperate loneliness; depression/isolation, people without solid community spending their entire lives pouring out without being poured into, and Christians failing to ask fellow believers good questions. These periods of loneliness kill the soul slowly. These periods of loneliness are spiritual warfare at its best and our worst.

Then there is the loneliness that is better known as being alone. It is the ache of not being fully understood, not fully understanding oneself, and not knowing why God has brought us to a place where life seems to stall. It is often boring, often busy, often frustrating. Yet, it is good. And healthy. And healing. Learning to be alone, learning to let go of detachments of faith/relationship/dependence are good. These periods of isolation feel similar to deep loneliness, but are often God bringing us to a place of full dependence on Him. In these times, God often reveals to us idols we have been making out of good things. For example, God recently revealed to me what an idol I have made out of community in college: though it is beautiful and healthy, I often think of my faith as intertwined with that of my friends. Nothing could be farther from the truth. My faith is the same when I’m having daily conversations about Jesus, as when I have my faith questioned daily at home.

Jesus walked through the desert for 40 days because God called him to that. He celebrated being alone and learned what a full dependence on God looked like. He stood up against Satan during that time and won. Jesus needed that time of aloneness to truly trust in God’s provision; undistracted by people (whether good or bad relationships), he learned who he was made to be.

We are called to be alone. So seek out God and seek out wise counsel and ask: is my loneliness self-made or God ordained? Am I being called to be alone now? Am I called to celebrate this time or am I called to emerge from it? He is good and his dictionary looks a lot different than our own. Loneliness does not mean to him what is does to us.

Love,

Liz

Faith Friday- Jorge

Though I only got to know Jorge senior year of high school, his faith has impacted me in so many ways. He's wise and adventurous and a great leader. I've been so grateful for his friendship and to get to hear about his walk with Christ!  What does my faith mean to me? I think when answering this simple but complex question I need to start with a bit of background of myself.

I'm a thinker. When it comes to trivial concepts and beliefs and feelings, I'm one to go back and forth, seeking the answer in many places in an attempt to find the one I like best. In the ups and downs of answering a difficult question, I usually give up, or lose interest. I'll find another thing to grab my attention, and seek that out. So this brings me to a time earlier this year: a time that felt as if I was losing myself, but it became a time of finding Him.

I have been a Christian since I was young, being raised in a loving Christian family that took me to church. But I would say not until March of 2014 did I truly come to KNOW God, not just know of Him. I went through a life changing experience in my life, where I felt the Holy Spirit overtake me and fill me. That was the moment my faith became REAL. I had never felt that way before. I was in the word first thing in the morning, worshipping throughout the day, and felt as if I was constantly in communication with my father. Like any other new relationship on earth, I was overjoyed and overtaken by something new. As time progressed, I met people who felt the same way, who led me to learn more and more about myself and my God (s/o Liz you rock). I was literally in love with God. But..... as most of us have experienced, bubbly, gushy love doesn't last long. That brings us to November of 2015. At that point I was finishing my 1st semester at Texas A&M (the greatest university on earth) and I was having the greatest time of my life. I was loving my classes, my friends, and I had joined a men's organization on campus filled with men who love the Lord and actively seek to pursue Him. This is why my feelings were so bizarre. God now felt distant. He felt more like a concept that I was supposed to be well versed on, as opposed to a person I was called to KNOW. When that happened, my natural instinct kicked in. I began to look around for answers. Why wasn't I feeling bubbly on the inside? Why, if I had once loved him so much, did I feel like I didn't even know who he was? I looked for answers and when I didn't find any, I simply stopped. I had accepted the fact he was a concept The same God who said “I am with you until the end of the age” in Matthew 28:20 had abandoned me. I began to ask myself questions like “Why Jesus?” “Why Christianity?” Being a lover of learning and other cultures, I have been around many different religious and cultural beliefs, all preaching the manner one should live life and the God one should believe. Although I asked this question in an attempt to mock Him, it was the answer I received that changed everything. As I sat down in mid January, now in my hometown, I was overcome with the feeling I needed to talk to God. I sat with Him and was honest. I questioned His love. I questioned His loyalty. I questioned His promise. But then I questioned myself. I questioned MY love. I questioned MY loyalty. I questioned MY promise. I came to the realization I had abandoned Him. I had left Him. He was right there waiting with His arms wide open. He died for me in my brokenness. He literally died AND resurrected for ME and every other human on this earth. There are only a select few people I'd die for. But he literally wanted to KNOW US so bad he died and came back so we could be in eternal union with Him. LMAO literally thinking about that gives me chills. So long story short, in that time of searching and wandering, I found Him. In turn I found myself. I think it's beautiful how God has the power to make suffering and pain into something beautiful. He turned the pain and suffering of His son Jesus into our sanctification. He turned my pain into joy. Finally, he guided me to Himself, and gave me Love. So what does my faith mean to me? It means love in the purest of forms. A love for people of all nations, cultures, and beliefs to experience. He is running after you. But before you can truly love Him, answer for yourself “Why Jesus?” Because as He has shown thousands of times before, He is truly with us until the end of the age.

Love,

Jorge

Purest Joy

In everything good, in everything joyous, in everything exciting, we tend to dig our heels in. To rest and revel in the experience. I have seen that in my happiest moments, with my favorite people, I never want any part of that time to change. When the situation starts changing, I desperately try to recover the joy I feel like I'm losing. It's like leaning backwards on a chair. We start with our feet on the floor, but want to lean back because it makes the experience more complete. It adds a component of reckless fun and, at first, it's harmless. Until we lean just a bit too far, depend too much on the comfort and stability of that one support, and then we're flat on the floor.

This is what I've found joy in human experiences to be. Too much of any good thing is bad: too much food, too much trust in one person, too much time with friends and not enough alone. By themselves, most of these things are not bad. When we pursue them in excess, we find that our joy turns obsessive. Now the thing that we depended on as a respite, has turned into our own mini God.

The only exception I've found to this rule has been Christ. Never once have I spent too much time in the Word, praying, or regretted learning more about God. I have never left the experience of connecting with God feeling lesser than I did before. I often experience frustration, disappointment, or even annoyance. But I have never left without feeling worked on and through that construction, loved. Only God can stand up to the weight of full dependence. Only He will return us joy every single time.

No human being or human experience can bear the burden of becoming an idol. Pure joy can only be found in Him, because only God can sufficiently play the role of provider.

Many, Lord, are asking, “Who will bring us prosperity?” Let the light of your face shine on us. Fill my heart with joy when their grain and new wine abound. In peace I will lie down and sleep, for you alone, Lord, make me dwell in safety. – Psalm 4:6-8

Love,

Liz

 

Faith Friday- Brenden

I came to college expecting to meet a lot of people. I never expected how much wisdom God would should me through people my own age. Brenden radiates Jesus in every action; it's such a privilege to learn from him!  Got Faith? I don’t know… what is it?

Have you ever read a good book, or any other well-written piece and you get frustrated with the lack of information you can retain?  This is happening to me right now as I read Jesus > Religion by Jefferson Bethke. I find this book fascinating and as I read I am intently engaging in every word saturated with truth. But I can’t remember it all! I can only take away a few valuable points from each chapter when I want to remember every detail. If you haven’t felt this way think about the last time you read the bible…there you go, now you know what I am talking about. For this piece about faith, I want to be short and direct, in hopes after reading this you can remember it and apply it. In this I will express what faith is, what it looks like when you don’t have faith and why we can trust to have faith in Jesus Christ.

Faith. For me, my faith is so integral to my existence that I could not survive a day without it – similar to how I depend on my own breath to sustain me. Faith to me means many things. Through my faith, I have hope. Through my faith, I am restored and redeemed. Through my faith, I have purpose. However, because my faith is something that is not tangible, it might sound silly that I rely so heavily upon it. So what exactly is it? The best way I know how to describe my interpretation of what it means to have Faith in Jesus is through an illustration of a bed. Every night, no matter who you are or how your day has gone you return home with the intent climbing into warm sheets and being whisked off to sleep. Now at any point in your whole life have you ever approached the bed and said to yourself, “Oh gosh, I can’t lay down and sleep because the bed might collapse.” No you haven’t. That sounds ridiculous and absurd. At no point in your life have you ever questioned if your bed was stable and strong enough to support you throughout the night. This same consistency can be attributed to what Faith in Jesus looks like to me. In every situation, in every hard time, in every decision I make, I can be at complete peace knowing Jesus not only holds me up but also sustains me and equips me while never breaking down or deteriorating. Just as I rush off to bed at night with hopes of attaining rest, I can run to my Savior, no matter how broken, lost, confused or tired I am with hopes of attaining something way more valuable – ultimate peace and rest.

So that sounds cool and all but as I mentioned faith isn’t something tangible. It isn’t something you can touch or keep in your back pocket in need of emergency. So what does it look like when you don’t have this thing called Faith in this guy called Jesus? My life is the perfect illustration. For the first 19 years of my life I tried to do the one thing every single human being tries – find fulfillment.  In the shortest summary of what those years looked like was this, trial and error; emptiness, trial and error; more emptiness, trial and error; nothing left in me to keep searching. After every failure I got more lost, more confused, more depressed, more hopeless. I relied on my own knowledge to try to bring myself satisfaction. I tried money, friends, relationships (like that Notebook love; Nicholas Sparks sucks), parties and countless other options. It all ended the same way, causing me a sense of temporary hope shortly followed by life crashing all down with more chaos and confusion. I had nothing to pull me up when I was beat down. My strength wore out. I gave up. This world got the best of me. Until January 25, 2015 when Jesus picked me up and never let me go.

Lastly, if you’re like me you dissect every little thing and continually ask the question why about everything. You need concrete evidence for you to fully have complete trust in Jesus. But you can’t meet up with Jesus for coffee to discuss your unending amount of questions you have so I want to answer to try to answer question of why it’s the best decision to have this unshakeable, undeniable, unchangeable, hopeful, joyful and fulfilling faith in Jesus. The first reason is you and I have incredibly inadequate judgment. As human beings we automatically think we know what is best, or we think we know what is right, or we even think we know what will happen in the future. That thing is called pride. Break it. An example of this is I had this girlfriend. She was funny, loved sports, could hang with the guys and oh boy was she smoking. She was “the one.” And I remember 8 months in the relationship started to get a little rocky I remember praying, “Lord if you just let us be together I will be happy. I know this is what I need in my life to keep me happy, please make this work.” Four months later I broke up with Michaela and was devastated. I didn’t understand why this perfect girl couldn’t make me happy. This is what I needed. Well, 6 months after I broke up with her and was still hung up on the relationship, Jesus came into my life and showed me how I didn’t have a clue what I truly needed. Through this girlfriend, Jesus showed me how no person can ever fulfill what I need no matter how perfect they are if I don’t have Him. Through her, Jesus showed me his way, his truth and his life. This would have never happened if she and I stayed together and it went my way. As I mentioned earlier you cant have concrete evidence and have coffee with Jesus but ask yourself this question, “Have I ever begged the Lord for something because it was what I needed and later in life I look back and see how thankful I am He did not fulfill that request?” You can probably think of multiple. There is your concrete evidence. The second way on why you can trust this faith is because of God’s character. Get this through your head. God does not need you, me or anyone else. He is completely self sufficient with out us yet He created you to experience his goodness, his joy, his love and his life; He created you because He wants you.  Everyday we disobey, lie, judge, compare, lack trust and even question in Jesus. But everyday God continually forgives us, seeks us, loves us and provides for us. Just put this into perspective if you had a friend that lied to you, judged you, lacked trust in you and questioned you on how good of a friend you are every single day would you continually seek that friendship? Well God does for you and me, because of who He is. William P. Farley puts it this way, “God could send us all to hell and remain holy, loving and just.”

Jesus loves you, Jesus seeks you, Jesus wants and knows what is the best for you, Jesus will hold you up and give you rest (just like that bed does) and lastly Jesus will never ever let you go. This is what faith in Jesus has proven to look like to me.

Brenden

Silence

I get a kick out of being right. Out of being put-together, and organized, and joyful. I get a kick out of being a proper, perfect version of who I should be. It's a dangerous type of addiction. It's an addiction to a version of ourselves that we think we should be at all times. The type that can run from activity to activity, never sleep, work out for an hour or more a day, say the right things, and look good while doing it. It's a false perception; a version of us that comes around maybe once in a month. I feel like spiritual warfare hits the hardest when we're living in these states. Because perfect people don't like to admit when life isn't perfect. Perfect lives don't have stress, worry, or unrequited emotions. So our best selves don't like to talk to talk about the parts that make us look weaker. Spiritual warfare thrives in this silence.

Silence is the refusal to admit that these emotions/breakdowns/feelings of vulnerability are normal. Silence is the belief that internalizing an emotion is sufficient to solve it. Silence is not allowing God to work through your vulnerabilities, correct them, and grow closer to your community because of them. Spiritual warfare may thrive in silence, but community thrives in honesty and brokenness. When we let down our facades of perfection, God brings those to us that can love us through those imperfections. Nothing creates a stronger sense of belonging than someone seeing your broken pieces and not only overlooking them, but also celebrating them!

Finally, admitting vulnerability opens the door to prayer. Attempting how we are struggling allows people all around us to care for and pray over our struggles. "Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working." James 5:16

Love, Liz

Faith Friday- Sarah

Wow, what a blessing it is to know Sarah. Sarah speaks in wisdom constantly, inspires me to be better in every aspect of life, is the most social person I know, and pushes everyone to care more. She's a mom in the best sense of the word. I see faith portrayed through her each and every day; how much more of a blessing it is to learn how she approaches it. I'm so happy that I get to learn from her and love her throughout college! Picture1.png My favorite song of all time is How Deep the Father’s Love For Us. Stuart Townend tells the story of Christ on the cross, but more specifically about what it cost the Father to give His Son. The lyrics shatter any conception of self-importance, bringing me immediately into a posture of humility. The words are simple and true, which is why they resonate so powerfully with the inmost part of my being. Therefore, it only seems fair to share these words with you.

 

How deep the Father's love for us

How vast beyond all measure

That He should give His only Son

To make a wretch His treasure

 

A wretch is a person of despicable character - a deplorably unfortunate person. A treasure is the thing a person values most, and this thing is regarded as precious. Obviously, wretch and treasure are polar opposites. A person would never look at a rotten apple and call that his treasure, but that is exactly what the Father does. Jesus took on my despicable, deplorable, unfortunate qualities at Calvary so that the Father can look at me and say, “This is my daughter, my treasure, whom I love.”

How great the pain of searing loss

The Father turns His face away

As wounds which mar the Chosen One

Bring many sons to glory

The Father, Son and Holy Spirit dwelled in perfect, eternal unison with one another - until man entered the picture. Attempting to understand the Trinity as separate but equal beings is a nearly impossible task, but the closest comparison I can draw is the example of conjoined twins. From the first moment they gasp in air, they are in the presence of one another, and although each is his own being with his own soul, they are together from the time of birth to the time of death. Think about how terribly painful it would be to separate this union. Then, consider the pain the Father felt when he turned his face away from his Son for the first time in eternity. He did this in order to bring me, his wretched treasure, into glory. How unfathomable.

 

Behold the man upon a cross

My sin upon His shoulders

Ashamed, I hear my mocking voice

Call out among the scoffers

It was my sin that held Him there

Until it was accomplished

His dying breath has brought me life

Often I approach the Father so filled with shame that I refuse to lift my face to His, forgetting that if I only lifted my eyes, I would see floods of grace. One of the devil’s greatest tools is shame, and he uses it deceitfully to make me feel inadequate, unworthy, and unloved. However, in taking my sin upon his shoulders, Jesus conquered my shame, so that I can confidentially lift my eyes to the Father, knowing full well that I am blameless, righteous, and holy before Him.

 

I know that it is finished.

 

This verse deserves a line of its own. People’s final words always seem to be the ones remembered and held onto most dearly, so it is no wonder this is such a well-known and powerful phrase. After Jesus uttered these words, he bowed his head and gave up his Spirit. IT IS FINSIHED. The innate freedom of those words is incomparable. I am no longer a slave to sin, death and fear because Jesus conquered all.

 

I will not boast in anything

No gifts, no power, no wisdom

But I will boast in Jesus Christ

His death and resurrection

 

How silly is it to think that I can accomplish anything of worth on my own? I came from dust, and to dust I will return. As Solomon would say, everything is a chasing after the wind. I am utterly insignificant on my own, but because I am a daughter of the true King, I am of eternal worth. Therefore, the only logical thing I have to boast about is the power of Jesus in me. For goodness sake, He’s the One who fills my lungs with air everyday, so the least I can do is use the mouth he designed specifically for me to praise Him.

 

Why should I gain from His reward?

I cannot give an answer

But this I know with all my heart

His wounds have paid my ransom.

Every time I sing these words, my heart constricts so tightly that breathing seems impossible. WHY. Why do I deserve his sacrifice? Jesus carried the cross I should bear, paid the price I owe, and suffered the death I fully deserve. The beauty of His sacrifice is that it is so underserved, but was done out of perfect love.

 

Since Jesus no longer walks the Earth as a man, I have to have faith in what I cannot see. There are so many things about God that I do not understand, partly because I am human, but mostly because he is GOD. He is not meant to be understood by the beings he created. However, the one thing I do know, with all my heart, is that He paid my ransom.

 

Because of this:

 

I can rejoice in the good and the bad.

 

I have no fear in life or in death.

 

I am free.

 

I am loved.

 

I am forgiven.

 

I am a child of God.

 

Faith is trusting Jesus when he says, “It is finished.”

Love,

Sarah