Three Things the Lord Taught Me through My College Years

This is an absolutely surreal moment, and I’m not sure when it will truly sink in…

I’m about to graduate from college…

Yeah, that still doesn’t sound right. At all. It seems like a couple of weeks ago I was moving in to my freshman dorm. It seems like not that long ago I was walking into my first college class (Biology 111 if you cared to know). It seems like just the other day I was beginning this journey, but here we are. Four years have passed. I am soon to be an alum graduating with his Bachelor’s of Science in Nursing and moving on to the next phase of my life a.k.a the real world. Man…time flies.

I could spend hours and hours sharing with you memories that I have created at my university and the many hardships I encountered academically. However, what I truly desire to do is share with you something way more important.

I want to share what the Lord taught me through these four years of college.

This list could be forever long and a day, but I’ll just keep it to three that pretty much sum up the lessons the Lord taught me through the past four years of my life. Who knows. Perhaps these are lessons the Lord has taught you….or maybe He’s teaching you as we speak.

1. Everything happens when it should, how it should, and as it should: by His will and in His time.

This is the lesson I am still having an extremely difficult time grasping. The past four years presented what I felt like were hundreds upon hundreds of challenges. However, the past year of my life has been what I’ve explained to my friends and family as “the worst” or “the hardest” year of my life. I have endured so many trials, tribulations, and storms of life that ultimately reached a climax with the passing of my Grandpa. Many other things happened before and after this event that beat me to my knees, but that’s the event that hit the hardest. Over the past six months, I’ve asked myself, “Why in the world do these things keep happening? Over and over and over again.” I have never doubted God’s existence, but let me tell you, I have questioned His plan.

“O you of little faith, why did you doubt?”- Matthew 14:31

Wow….straight from the mouth of our Savior, Jesus Christ. I always wondered how Peter could ever doubt Jesus. I always wondered why ANYONE would not trust the Almighty God. Then I realized that I do it almost daily. That is a convicting thought. Why would I not trust His plan…the One who calmed the winds and the waves….the One who walked on the water….the One who arose from the dead….the One who defeated Satan and sin to give me hope of eternal life….why?

Well, we’re human. That’s why. It’s in our nature to not understand. It’s in our nature to demand answers. It’s in our nature to question why things happen and when they happen. It’s in our nature to question anything outside of OUR plans and OUR “schedule” we have in our lives. That’s what makes us, man and God, God.

I know it’s easy to ask why things happen. I know it’s easy to ask why things happen at the worst times. I know it’s easy to question why in the world God would allow you to go through so much when it all seems so unfair and so wrong. That is normal. That’s okay. Just know…

“My brethren count it all JOY when you fail into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces PATIENCE. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be PERFECT and COMPLETE, lacking nothing.”- James 1:2-4

It’s okay to ask why things happen and why they happen when they do, but the answer is simple: the Lord has a plan. His will is perfect. His timing is perfect. And He is trying to make you perfect….in His time.

Trust God. He’s worth trusting.

2. Build your own faith

From the time I was born, I was in a home where God and His Son were the focus. I was raised in a family where every time the doors were open at church, we were there. I grew up as a preacher’s grandson and a deacon’s (and now an elder’s) son. Even the people in my family not under my roof were Christians. This was both a blessing and a curse. Now don’t get me wrong, I am so incredibly thankful for the family I was raised in, and there is not a day that goes by where I don’t thank God for that.

On the flip side, it was too easy.

I went my whole life with the faith of my grandparents, parents, preacher, bible class teachers, etc. In hindsight, 99% of the things they always taught me were the truth, but still, I had made a mistake….I never developed my own faith.

I came into college on fire for God. This was a new opportunity. This was a new life. This was a time I could “reset” my life and “restart” my faith. I was out on my own. This was the time in my life I could work in the Lord’s Kingdom with my own faith. Did anyone else feel this way? Because I’m completely serious. This was going to be the “new me.”

But…there was a problem. When life and the temptations of it hit me between the eyes, I really didn’t have an answer. Why? My faith wasn’t TRULY built upon what it should be build upon. My faith was built on my parents. My faith was built on what I had heard in a pulpit. My faith was built on what I heard in a bible classroom. My faith was built upon myself. My faith was built on man. It was during this time I realized what I needed to do….

My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness.

It was time to build on the Rock that is higher than I.

I began to spend so much time in God’s Word and truly search out things for myself. I began to form my own conclusions. I began to dig deep. I began to build a faith upon the one true foundation that is Jesus.

What I found is that, yes, the people who shared so much with me about God’s Word and the faith I should have were correct. However, how could I stand on my own if I never searched and dug into the Word for myself. I truly felt and knew what it was like to sing the words:

On Christ the Solid Rock, I stand. All other ground is sinking sand. All other ground is sinking sand.

Out of the sand. Onto the Rock.

During this time….I learned the final lesson I want to share with you all…

3. Every single thing you do in your life should have one sole purpose: Glorify God and give Him everything you’ve got

I want to make a statement. This is something you may not agree with, but perhaps you will. This is how I see it: Being a Christian does you absolutely no good until you discover why you are a Christian.

Why do you do what you do? Why do you go to church services every time the doors are open? Why do you worship God? Why do you spend time studying the Bible? Why do you teach others about Jesus? Why do you live a different lifestyle than others? Why are you a Christian? WHY DO YOU DO WHAT YOU DO?

Is it because that’s what you’ve always done? Is it because that’s just the way you were raised? Is it because you know if you did any differently your friends and family would be breathing down your neck? Is it to appeal to other people? Is it to get social media fame? Is it to achieve YOUR goals?

Or is it because you love Jesus and the Good, Good Father who sent Him to this earth to die for you?

Wow. Conviction.

I’m speaking to myself, because I did all of those things. I was living this life for all of the wrong reasons. I was wearing the name Christian for all of the wrong reasons. This wasn’t living for Christ, this was living for Carson.

It was in one of my weakest moments when I read this passage, my favorite in Scripture.

“But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”- Romans 5:8

Out of this verse I learned why I do what I do. I learned why I wear the name Christian. I learned why I worship Him. I learned why I pray to Him. I learned why I study His Word. I learned why I lived this life. I learned my purpose.

GOD LOVED ME SO MUCH THAT HE SENT HIS SON JESUS TO DIE FOR ME AT MY WORST SO THAT I COULD LIVE FOR HIM AT MY BEST.

Wow. That’s it. That’s why I’m here. That’s my purpose. Live for God and His Son at my best. Give Them everything I have. Every exam I’ve taken over the past four years was to glorify Him. Every paper I’ve written was to glorify Him. Every hardship I’ve endured was to glorify Him. Every Bible class lesson, devotional, and sermon I’ve delivered was to glorify Him. Every conversation was to glorify Him. The degree I’m receiving on Saturday was to glorify Him. The nursing career I’ll be working diligently in is to glorify Him. The marriage I will have one day will be to glorify Him. The way I will raise my children will be to glorify Him. The life I live until my last moment on this earth should glorify Him.

This is being a Christian. This is living for Christ.

Let me wrap this up by saying, I failed miserably to glorify the Lord through my entire college career. I pray that I will glorify Him in all I do in the future, but I do recognize the mistakes I’ve made. I recognize the fact that the vast majority of my college experience was not lived for the right reasons. Most of the time, all I had in mind were my desires and my feelings. However, I hope that in the future, as I begin this new chapter of my life, that I will take these lessons the Lord has taught me through these four years at UNA and apply them through the rest of my life.

Just remember, we all fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23), but Jesus died for you at your worst so you can live for Him at your best.

I am so thankful to God for the past four years and all of the trials and blessings that came with them. We serve such a great God. We serve such a forgiving God. We serve such a loving God.

I hope that this message has been an encouragement to you in some shape, form, or fashion. Thank you so much for taking the time to read, and may we all strive to serve the Lord and work diligently for the Kingdom.

May the grace of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ be with you all. God bless.

 

True Thanksgiving

First of all, happy Thanksgiving to all! Hopefully as you’re reading this, you’ve either already stuffed yourself full of turkey and dressing or you’ll be there in the near future. So, maybe this quick message will catch you at a good time, right before your food coma takes over as you “watch a football game” (aka sleep for 3 hours).

This is a day that we all take the time to pause the craziness of life (and for college students a time to forget about the impending doom that is finals on the horizon) and consider everything that we are thankful for. I’m not going to deliver the cliché speech about how we should be thankful every day and not just on the last Thursday in November. I’m not going to give you the lecture about how if today is the only day you truly count your blessings then there’s something wrong with you.

I just want you to consider what thanksgiving truly is.

Yes, today, I am thankful. Extremely thankful. I’m thankful to have another day of life. I’m thankful for a loving family and equally loving friends. I’m thankful for all the material blessings and necessities I have. I’m thankful for the opportunity to pursue an education (yes even with finals approaching). Even in a time where all we seem to talk about is the negatives of this country, I am thankful for the United States of America and the freedoms we have here such as the freedom to worship as we please. I am thankful for my dachshunds, and yes I did feel it was necessary to specifically mention them because hey what can I say I’m obsessed. I am thankful for this day that I can stop and forget about nursing school for a moment and enjoy the three F’s: family, football, and food. But most of allI am thankful for God’s grace, mercy, and love. I am thankful for His willingness to send His only Son, Jesus Christ, away from a perfect home in Heaven only to be brutally murdered to offer hope to a sinner like myself. I am thankful for the hope of something beyond this life. I am thankful for a Father that I can go to with every care I’ll ever have in prayer. I’m thankful for a Savior that loved me so much, even when I was at my darkest. Today, and every day, I am thankful for Jesus Christ.

Now, I want you to consider all the things you are thankful for. Make a list. Count your blessings. Some things may be different on your list than mine. Hopefully some are the same… Okay, now I want you to consider what it truly means to be thankful for these things. What does it mean to truly give thanks.

Here’s something to consider: what if I told you that everything that you are thankful for would be taken away from you? How would you react? How would you respond? You would probably fight for those things, right? You would do whatever it took to keep them. You would act!

True thanksgiving is not just saying, “thank you.” TRUE THANKSGIVING IS LIVING A LIFE THAT RADIATES “THANK YOU!” 

Where does every single blessing you have come from? God! In James 1:17, he states that “Every good and perfect gift is from above…” So if everything comes from God then who should you thank for everything you have every single day? God! And yes, God appreciates you expressing your thankfulness to Him through words, but if you are truly thankful for everything that He has blessed you with, then show Him you are thankful by your life! If you live a life where you are disobeying God left and right, then are you really thankful for what He’s done for you? If you are living a life where you say you’re thankful, but you turn around and live a lifestyle that is the opposite of what God wants from you, then are you truly thankful? The biggest sign of gratitude and thankfulness is not empty words, but ACTION!

So I encourage you, if you are thankful for your family, friends, education, freedoms, possessions, necessities, and most importantly God’s grace, mercy, love, and Son, then live that way. Live a life that radiates “Thank You, Lord!” That…is true thanksgiving.

Yet again, I wish you all a happy Thanksgiving, and God bless!

Five Goals Every Christian College Student Should Have This Semester

Welp….the time has come.

Time to stop sleeping in and start setting the 6:30 AM alarms. Time to say goodbye to my social life. Time to come to the realization that I can’t sit in bed and watch Netflix for half the day. Time to pick up the books. Time to pack up my things, leave my hometown, and head back to UNA. Time to leave summer behind and say hello to another school year (although this will be my last of undergrad…so weird). Another school year full of stress, studying, and lack of sleep… and the list goes on and on and on.

Okay, enough of the depressing stuff.

I also believe this new semester is a new start for all of us. This is a new semester to have different goals with different outcomes. This is a clean slate (yes I know your GPA doesn’t reset but we’re not going to think about that right now because this is a positive blog okay) and a new opportunity to be better than you were last semester. This semester, the Fall of 2016, is a fresh start. I mean this in every aspect of your life: in academics, relationships, friendships, and just being a better person in general. But I want this post to be about something that holds a higher value than all of those things: your relationship with the Lord.

In my opinion, one of the best things you can do before this semester starts is set goals for yourself. I’ll leave the goals you set academically to you, but I want to give you five goals that every Christian in college should be striving for this semester that I feel will bring you closer than you’ve ever been to God, while hitting the books and working for that degree. Here we go:

1. Organize Your Priorities

For those of you who know anything about the Myers-Briggs personality test, you probably can define yourself as a “P” or a “J”. Long story short, “P” people tend to be less organized while “J” people tend to be more organized. I happen to be a “J” person, proven by the fact that my planner is basically another part of my body. That being said, I don’t think being a “P” or a “J” is a do-or-die matter academically, because we all find our different comfort zones of making it through the semester. However, I think we all need to have a “J” mindset when it comes to our walk with the Lord. We need to organize our priorities before we start the semester. In fact, this is a goal that we need to set and accomplish in our hearts right now, because without doing this, our hearts won’t be in the right place and without that, our other spiritual goals will never be reached. This is the easiest to-do list you’ll ever make, and Jesus gave it to us, Himself:

“But seek ye FIRST the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.” – Matthew 6:33

  1. Seek the Lord and His kingdom
  2. Everything else

I want you to realize how easy of a priority list this is to MAKE, but to actually ORGANIZE it to where it reflects this order in your life, you must LIVE it. That is up to you. But before we can set any other goal, you have to accomplish this one. Organize your priorities in your heart to where God’s kingdom is the most important thing in your life. And we’ll go from there.

2. Give God the Glory for EVERYTHING You Encounter, Whether It’s a Win or a Loss

Here’s some questions for you:

How often do we go to God when things are bad or we need something? Pretty often. How often do we go to God when things are great just to thank Him and give Him the glory for having success? Probably still pretty often but maybe not as much as we should. Okay, well how often do we give God the glory and thank Him for struggles? …..yupp, this is the tough one.

Let me illustrate this in a way that every college student can relate to: a grade on an exam.

Let’s say you’re logging onto the website that your grade is posted on and you’re literally sweating and shaking from the nerves (yes, I have been there). You open up your grade to see that you absolutely killed that exam and made an A. What’s your first reaction? Tell people how you did awesome on the test and how you studied so hard and how you had success? I’m the guilty party here. The reaction should be to thank God and give Him the glory! Why? I’ll get to that in a second.

Another scenario: You’re opening up the website where your grade is. You studied 50 hours for this exam. You cried, became an insomniac, and literally lost your mind preparing for it. The grade pops up and….you bombed it. Absolutely flunked it. What’s your first reaction? To cry? To get angry at the professor? To blame it on everything in existence including your dog/cat/fish/hedgehog/whatever pet they’ll let you have in an apartment/dorm these days? I’ve been there. When in reality, yes even in this scenario, our response should be to thank God for this failure and give glory to Him! That sounds crazy doesn’t it? Well, it’s not. Here’s why.

GOD gave you the ability to study for the exam. GOD gave you the opportunity to attend a school like the one you attend. GOD blessed you with means to pay for this school in some sort of fashion. GOD either gave you the wisdom, strength, and ability to do great on the exam or the experience of failing! Any way you look at it, GOD blessed you with what you received. Win or lose. Pass or fail. God should be given glory when we succeed because He gave us everything we needed to succeed. God should also be given the glory when we fail because “…count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience.” (James 1:2) This applies to way more in life than just a test. Anything you encounter this next semester, whether you win or lose, give God the glory, because either way, He has blessed you.

3. Study, Study, Study (God’s Word)

In my first post I wrote about being a Christian in college, I already put a lot of thought into this (I encourage you to give that one a read, too!), so I’ll keep it brief. Yes, God wants you to study and work hard to graduate with that degree. In fact, God wants to see you succeed in all you do as long as it’s in His plan. However, studying God’s Word should hold a higher priority (see the priority list again) than any nursing textbook I own. I’m not saying to never open a textbook again. I’m not saying that it is even possible to put more study time into God’s Word than your schoolwork if you want to pass. What I am saying is that God’s Word is our road map, our guide, and our motivational tool that we need as a Christian to make it through this life so full of ways to get lost and discouraged. That is why it is important, and that is why it deserves our time. The Bible is more than a book, it is God speaking to us. Words directly from our Father. We should treat it like such.

(In Psalm 119, David describes God’s Word as a light to his path. Don’t live life without that light, or you’ll always be stumbling around in the dark. Food for thought.)

4. Don’t Stress (Too Much), Just Give It All to God, and Learn to Be Content

This is the really really tough one for me personally.

Part of the college lifestyle is stress. Stress about the next exam. Stress about a grade. Stress about getting a paper written in time. Stress about finances. Stress about your future. I’m convinced that college and stress are just interchangeable terms at this point. But there comes a point where we have to face everything we’re stressed about. The good news is, we don’t have to do it alone. That’s one of the many things the Lord has to offer to His children. In 1 Peter 5:7, Peter writes to “cast all your anxieties on Him, for He cares for you.” Take your stress and give it to the Lord. He will care for you. He will do what is best in His plan. You just have to trust that. You have to trust that no matter what horrible things you face in your life that the Lord has a plan and that He will provide.

We should all strive to be like Paul in this area of our lives. In Philipians 4:11, he writes “for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content.” Why? Because he believed in the Lord, trusted His plan, and truly believed (as he would write a couple verses afterwards) that he could do all things through Christ.

When you reach a point where you’re content with whatever happens in life because you trust God’s plan and believe that He will provide, you will truly feel the peace that passes understanding through Jesus. Because no matter what comes, you know that you can rest in the Lord, His love, His grace, His mercy, and His promises. I know it’s easier said than done, but once you achieve this mindset, those huge exams seem all that more conquerable, and even when you fail, you know that you can rest in the Lord.

“What a friend we have in Jesus.

All our sins and griefs to bear

all because we do not carry

everything to God in prayer.”

5. Imitate Christ- Be Like Jesus

This should be a goal every Christian should have. The very name Christian describes someone who is a follower of Christ. We should all be like Jesus. We’ll never be perfect. We’ll never be able to comprehend the love that he showed. We’ll never be Jesus. But we can strive to be like Him in everything we do.

While you’re in class, imitate Christ. While you’re alone in your room at night, imitate Christ. When you’re at work, imitate Christ. Ask yourself when you’re making any decision: would Jesus do this? Is this something Jesus would do? These are all things we need to consider. There will be days where we fall short. That happens. Make it your goal to put those things behind and live the next semester, the next month, the next day, or even the next hour more like Jesus Christ.

Each one of us should have this goal: at the end of every day can we say that we lived as Christ would. That should be our goal. Every day. This is a goal that goes beyond college. This is a goal that will go with us to the day we die. Did others see Jesus in you? Did you imitate Christ?

Make that your goal. BE MORE LIKE JESUS!

 

I want to say that the reason these five goals came to mind is because they are five personal goals for myself. These are things I need to strive towards. Hopefully, they’ll be five goals that you take with you through this semester and into the next, and the next, and the next, and all the way through college and into your career. If you organize your priorities to have the Lord first, give Him the glory, study His Word, give your cares to Him, and imitate His Son Jesus Christ, I promise that you will be a better Christian than you were last semester. These are goals I’m striving to achieve, and hopefully others will join me this semester as we look to make our campuses a better place in the Lord’s Kingdom.

Thank you all for reading my articles this summer. I hope to do more as the school year progresses when I have time. May we all strive to be better for the One who gave it all for us.

God bless.

 

 

 

 

How to Save a Life

Here’s something to think about:

If you knew someone (whether it be an enemy, a friend, a family member, a significant other, or just some random person on the street) had a serious disease such as cancer and would die by the end of the day, and you had the cure, the antidote, what would you do? I am almost 100% certain that you would give it to them, regardless of your connection to them. You would save their life, wouldn’t you?

Quick fact about myself: I’m going into my last year of nursing school. My dream is to become a nurse. My dream is to touch people’s lives. My dream is to save lives. And let me tell you, there are lives to be saved. If estimations I’ve read are correct, over 150,000 people will die today. That’s 150,000 people who had lives like you and I. 150,000 people who woke up likely not knowing that today would be their last day. But most importantly, 150,000 people with souls died today.

How many of them knew Jesus? How many of them were followers of Christ?

I don’t have a statistic on that, but my guess would probably be that there were more who didn’t than those that did. More who weren’t than those that were. But here is the real (and sad) question:

How many of them did you reach out to? How many of them did you talk to about Jesus?

Ouch. That hurts.

I know I’m guilty. And more than likely, we all are.

I think it’s important to realize that no, it is physically impossible to reach every single person who will die in your life time. You can’t teach every single person in this world about Jesus. It’s impossible. But I also think it’s important to realize that you will encounter thousands upon thousands of people in your every day life that you can. Those are the people who you can impact. Jesus provides the means to do the saving, don’t get me wrong. But YOU can be the person to reach someone with the gospel and offer them a gift that has eternal value: Jesus and a hope a heaven.

Now back to the point I made at the beginning. If you had an antidote to save someone’s life, you would give it to them… And at this moment you probably know what I’m about to say… WHY DON’T WE SHARE THE GOSPEL?!

The gospel is the ETERNAL ANTIDOTE with an ETERNAL IMPACT! And yet, do we share it with others like we would a physical antidote for a physical disease? I know I don’t.

If you are a Christian, you have all the knowledge needed in God’s Word to reach a lost soul. You have all the tools necessary to save a life. You have what it takes to save a soul.

Hopefully, next year I’ll be a nurse saving lives. But I know that today I can help save a life, a soul. And you can, too.

I want to end this message by saying that if you are someone who has questions about the gospel and Jesus Christ’s message, please don’t hesitate to reach out to someone. In fact, I ask that if you have any questions about God’s Word and His plan for you, please feel free to contact me via social media and send me a message. Jesus’ message is a message of love. We are supposed to value and love all souls of all people. Therefore, I care about every single one of you who read this and your soul. So, if you have any questions I would love to talk to you.

Thank you and God bless.

 

To the “Stuck in the Rut” Christian

I’m going to ask a question, and I want you to be honest with yourself. 

Are you better than you were yesterday?

Are you better than you were last year?

A better teacher. A better servant. A better student. A better person. A better Christian.

Are you?

Just to make sure you don’t feel like this is a finger-pointing lecture, I’ll admit that the main reason these thoughts came to my mind was because I knew I needed them. I’ll go ahead and admit that at different points of this past year I could answer yes, and other times I could answer no. It hurts to say that, but it’s the honest truth. Is that okay? No. Do I need to be better? Yes. But the first thing I needed to get you (and myself) to do is be honest. Before you can improve, you must be honest with yourself about the things that need to be improved. Okay, now that we’re clear: Are you better than you were yesterday? Are you better than you were last year? Are you a better servant of Christ? Are you improving?

If yes, awesome. You’re probably doing better than I have the past year, and I applaud your example to people like myself. But there’s always room for improvement, right?

If no, the next question to ask is why? Why aren’t you better? Keep that in mind.

Now that we have the answer to that question, I want to share ONE SINGLE WORD with you that I hope will be the motivation you need to be the best Christian you can be.

But first… Let me explain one more thing, and it’s pretty important. IF YOU’RE NOT GETTING BETTER, YOU’RE GETTING WORSE. Let me explain this with an illustration. You know how tug-of-war works, right? Two sides pulling in their own direction. The side that pulls the other across the line first wins. Here’s my comparison to our walk with Christ:

You’re on the right side of the rope. Satan is on the left. You’re both pulling against each other. Let’s say you’re serving Christ with everything you’ve got. You’re giving Him your all. Everything you do, you do your best for Jesus. With the Lord to back you up, you’ve got the win guaranteed, in the bag, game over. Now let’s say you are going through the motions. Yeah, you go to church most Sundays. Yeah, you kind of do most of the right things in life. Yeah, you might mention Jesus to someone occasionally. Yeah, I guess you could say you’re doing alright. Not great, but pretty good. You lose. You know why? Because, if you think Satan is going to quit pulling his direction, you’re lying to yourself. Satan never stops pulling at you. Ever. In fact, his one purpose is to make sure you fail and take the L (and that’s not a loss you want to take, I promise you). If Satan is constantly pulling, and you’re standing idle, you’re going to get pulled in like a 90-pound boy would get pulled in by Arnold Schwarzenegger. Bottom line: If you don’t give everything you’ve got for the Lord, you’re standing still. If you’re standing still while the enemy (Satan) isn’t, you’re giving in to his pull. If that happens, you’re losing to Satan. Being idle is losing. That is the importance of giving your all. That is the importance of not going through the motions. That is the importance of giving Christ 100% in all that you do.

“But I know the importance of giving my all for the Lord. I always have. My problem is how do I STOP going through the motions? How do I wake up? How do I take action? What is my motivation to be better?”

One word:

LOVE

To be clear, Jesus Christ’s love. The Lord’s love. But simply, love.

There’s passage from the Word of God that comes to my mind time and time again when I struggle with going through the motions and not being the best I can possibly be. And if you haven’t read anything I’ve typed this whole time, PLEASE, read this:

“For when we were still without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. For scarcely for a righteous man will one die; yet perhaps for a good man someone would even dare to die. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners Christ died for us. Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him.” -Romans 5:6-9

I am left speechless and in awe every time I read that passage. 73 words with an infinite impact. At times, I have a difficult time grasping exactly what it says… Wait a second, so you’re telling me that Jesus Christ, the Son of God, left the perfect place of Heaven?  A place with no pain, no sadness, no darkness, and no death? He left that? He left that place to come to this world that is filled with so much pain, hate, and evil? He left His Father? God allowed Him to leave? His one Son? A Son He loved more than anything? Christ left all of that to not only come to this awful place, but to come here to be beaten, spat upon, ridiculed, have a crown of thorns twisted on His head, have nails driven through his hands and feet, and die a cruel death on a cross? Why? Why would anyone do that?

Yet again, one word.

Love.

He loved us while we were without strength. He loved us when we were sinful. He loved us while we were ungodly. He loved us while were were at our darkest. He loved those people who ridiculed Him. He loved the people who nailed Him to the cross. He loved the very people who wanted Him to die. He loved you. He loved me.

And yet, I fail Him daily. And yet, I choose to sin. And yet, I don’t give 100%. And yet, I go through the motions.

There’s your motivation.

Grace is the giving of something we don’t deserve. Mercy is withholding something that we do deserve. I don’t deserve salvation. I don’t deserve what Jesus did for me. I do deserve to be lost. I do deserve that. Because of that, I am forever thankful for the grace and mercy shown to me by my Lord and Savior. That’s my motivation. All driven by the love He had and will forever have for you and me.

In closing, I hope these words are to you what they are for me: a wake up call to be better. Motivation to be give everything to the Savior who gave it all for you and me. Don’t feel sorry for yourself, which is something I do when I think about these things. Take what Christ did for you, and have that same attitude toward others. Have that love. Take that love and not only go to church, but worship the Lord with your whole heart. Don’t just talk to others about Jesus every now and then. Spread the good news of Jesus like it’s the best thing that ever happened to you (because it is). Don’t go through life continuing to partake in the sins of this world because “Jesus has me covered.” Really? He gave it all for you, and you have that attitude? Don’t just go through the motions and be “good enough.” Be the best you can be. Why? Because Jesus was the best He could be for you. 

I challenge you to go and be the servant of Jesus Christ you were called to be. Be passionate. Be active. Be motivated. But most importantly, be loving like Christ loved you.

Thank you all, and God bless.

 

 

This World Is Not My Home

Last Thursday, my family and I hopped in a rental Chrysler Town & Country and headed out on our family vacation. The destination this year was Williamsburg, Virginia to do such things as walk around Colonial Williamsburg and have a couple days at Busch Gardens. After a Friday of getting my roller coaster fix in (I’m a coaster junkie) and a Saturday of taking in all the sights of Colonial Williamsburg (also a history junkie), we were all ready for a Sunday of relaxation.

I woke up on Sunday, June 12 like it was any other day. My family and I had to wake up a little earlier than usual to catch the worship service at the local church we had planned to attend, so I walked to the hotel’s dining room to eat some breakfast. As I was eating my breakfast, I looked up at the TV to see the following headline in all caps:

BREAKING: CONFIRMED SHOOTING IN ORLANDO NIGHT CLUB”

The rest of the morning, before my family and I left out for church, I sat in front of my room’s TV fixated on the news as the horrific details began to pour in. As you read this, I’m sure you know all the details and how horrific they were. The last time I heard, 49 people were killed in the shooting. Forty. Nine. 49 people’s lives ended on the date of June 12, 2016.

That morning, my mind immediately began to fill up with ideas, thoughts, opinions, etc. Especially about how terrifying this world has become. About the fear we should all have about the direction of this nation and this world.  How evil and hate have seemed to  burn through this nation of peace and love like an out-of-control wildfire. But there was one single thought that came to the forefront of my mind over, and over, and over again: I am so glad that my true citizenship lies in Heaven.”

Now, before I get into this main point, I want to make it clear that this is not a political ramble. This is not going to be me force-feeding you my political views. Whether you support Trump, Hillary, Bernie, Leslie Knope, or Bobby Newport, these thoughts are for you. Whether you claim to be a liberal or a conservative, these thoughts are for you. Whether I agree with your ideas or not, these thoughts are for you. If you claim to be a Christian and everything that involves, these thoughts are definitely for you. If you are not a Christian, maybe these thoughts will make you see the world a little differently. Regardless, I want to share this message with you, and I hope it will be encouraging to everyone who reads it:

 

The Bad News

Okay. I have to get this part out of the way, and I promise I’ll make it quick. The bad news first…. and it might shock you….

We actually have to live in this physical world full of darkness, death, terrorism, disease, fear, sadness, poverty, hunger ….. Do I need to continue? Good, because honestly, I’m tired of thinking about those things. I’m tired of thinking about all these things that we all fear in life. I’m fed up with spending my days worried sick about the state of this nation, and who will be elected next. I’m so done with stressing about all these things that could possibly take my freedom or my life one day. I am finished wasting my energy and time concerned with all these PHYSICAL things. And I am sure I’m not the only one who feels this way. But guess what?

That’s where the bad news ends.

The Good News

This is what I wanted to share. This message. The good news.

As I’m typing this, I can’t help but to think of these lyrics from an old hymn:

“This world is not my home, I’m just a passing through. My treasures are laid up somewhere beyond the blue. The angels beckon me from Heaven’s open door, and I can’t feel at home in this world anymore.”

How many times have you felt this way as a Christian? Even if you aren’t a Christian, haven’t you ever felt this way as well? That this world just isn’t for you? I do daily. Especially on the morning of June 12. As I watched the news coverage from Orlando, I couldn’t help but to think of three words: “Lord, come quickly.” I began to think about the horrors of this world such as those that took place that Sunday morning. But then I began to think about the description of Heaven in Revelation 21-22:11 (please read this in its entirety when you get the chance). I thought about how it is described as a place with no sadness, sickness, darkness, or pain. A place with eternal light. A place with eternal joy. A place we will be reunited with those we love who have gone before us. A place where we will worship our Lord and Savior forever and ever. A place where we can sit at the feet of Jesus and know that all the trials we went through on this cold and evil world were worth it.

See, I told you this was the good news.

At that moment, I began to overflow with joy. I began to remember words that my dad had said over and over in my high school bible class that gave me peace: “Man can beat you. Man can ridicule you. Man can kill you. Man can take your life. But man CAN NOT TOUCH YOUR SOUL.” Wow. No matter how evil this world is. No matter how scary of a place it can be. No matter how far from home you feel here, always remember that simple fact. Nothing on this earth can touch your soul. That’s between you and Jesus. And isn’t that such a comforting thing? That person in your life that you fear can’t touch your soul. The government can’t touch your soul. ISIS can’t touch your soul. NOTHING ON THIS EARTH CAN TOUCH YOUR SOUL! So why dwell on those things? All these things that have no effect on eternity. 

One more place in Scripture I want to turn your attention to is in Phillipians 3:20-21: “For our citizenship is in HEAVEN, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body that it my be conformed to His glorious body…”

Wow.

Eagerly waiting for the Savior. That is where I am currently. Waiting on my Savior. Realizing that all the bad news, all the horror, all the pain, all the despair of this life. They mean nothing. The good news of Jesus Christ and eternity in Heaven outweigh every single ounce of malice and hate that can be placed on the scales opposite of them. So why bother stressing about them? Look to Jesus. Look to Heaven.

A Couple More Points

Being a Christian is an active lifestyle. I want to encourage you to work in the Kingdom as we eagerly wait for the Lord to call us home. I wrote a little something about a month ago about the importance of the college Christian in the work of the Kingdom. However, I want to stress that we ALL can take the message God gives us to work for His cause every day and apply it to our lives. Don’t become idle. Don’t just look to Heaven in a daze. As we wait eagerly, work diligently.

Also, I don’t want you to think from reading this that this life we live is not a beautiful thing. We are told in God’s Word that there are many things to enjoy about the life we live. Enjoy every moment with your friends, families, children, grandchildren, spouses, etc. I had such an amazing time with my family in Williamsburg, and I was filled with joy when I came home to be reunited with my little dachshund, Blaze (had to get my love for dachshunds in here somehow I guess). So, please enjoy this life. Every moment. But realize that the negatives of this life are extremely outnumbered by the blessings that Heaven has to offer.

 

In closing, the purpose of me writing this was to hopefully shine a little light in the darkness that has been the events of this past week. Like I said earlier, no matter where you stand politically, I think this is something we can take moving forward and have peace as followers of Jesus.  If you aren’t a Christian, who knows, maybe this article has made you ask yourself some questions or made the Christian lifestyle and Jesus’ message sound appealing. Either way, I hope these thoughts have been encouraging to you.

“This world is not my home, I’m just a passing through. My treasures are laid up somewhere beyond the blue. The angels beckon me from Heaven’s open door, and I can’t feel at home in this world anymore”

Always remember, your citizenship lies in Heaven, not on this earth.

Thank you and God bless.

 

 

 

The Life of a College Christian

College is hard.

I know what you’re thinking, “Well thanks, Captain Obvious.” And yes, I know, I’m about to be a senior (almost threw up as I typed that), and I know it’s hard. I’ve been there at 5 AM finishing up a 12-page research paper knowing I have to be at class in three hours. I’ve studied 30+ hours for an exam and still not make the grade I’ve wanted. I’ve had to suffer through classes where the professor wasn’t fair.  I’ve been so stressed that I’ve felt sick. I’ve spent nights worrying about friendships, relationships, and my future. I’ve gotten so frustrated with an assignment that I’ve just given up, turned on Netflix, and watched The Office for the next three hours instead. I am sure I’m not the only one to have done at least one of those things, if not all of them.

But honestly, none of that was the hardest part.

The hardest part about college has been continuing my walk with Jesus Christ.

I’m typing this on a Sunday night while watching Steph Curry do his thing (you knew I would get sports in here somehow) because I wanted to share some thoughts that I feel can be encouraging to other college students out there that believe as I do, that believe in Jesus and His message, and are trying to serve Him each and every day in a world that is making that mission extremely difficult. So here are three things that have been on my mind lately about being a Christian while being a college student:

1. The Great Balancing Act

Homework. Jobs. Paying bills. Having (somewhat of) a social life. Studying. Relationships.  Helping out with student organizations. Internships. Interviews. GETTING YOUR WHOLE LIFE TOGETHER. Oh yeah, and somewhere in there, you have to sleep, right? So many things to do, that all come at a price:

Time.

Everything that I just listed (and I could have gone on for days with other things) are things that college students like myself go through every day, and every one of those things take time. I didn’t learn the true meaning of the statement “not enough hours in the day” until I became a college student. 24 hours never seems like enough time for all those things. But wait, did you notice I left something out of the list? Where’s Jesus?

I’m speaking to myself when I ask, how often do we spend watching Netflix (guilty), flipping through Twitter/Instagram (guilty), and watching a game (definitely guilty) when I could be spending time with Jesus. In His Word. In prayer. Worshipping Him. That’s a humbling thought, especially when you realize you have been failing at prioritizing Christ.

As a Christian, I find it so incredibly difficult to find time spend with the Lord in the midst of all the other things that I’m so busy with. But when you get down to it, what does the Lord have that the others don’t? Eternal value. The degree we are pursuing, the organization we might be a part of , the job we are working just to pay bills are all things that may be important (and necessary) to us. But if we can see the true value of the things that bring us closer to Jesus (psssttt….they’re eternal) then maybe we’ll take some time to put down the books, the phone, and the stress, and go to God in prayer, spend time in the Word, and grow in our relationship with Christ. Balancing life is hard, especially in college, but Jesus should outweigh everything else that might be on the scales.

2. Being Different, in the Best Way

In my opinion, this is the hardest part. When everyone else is going one way, going the other. When everyone else is doing things that are the farthest things from Jesus, staying with Jesus instead of going with them. I’m not going to list things that I believe are wrong. I’ll leave that to you to determine on your own, but I will say this: shouldn’t Jesus be more important than ANY pleasure of this world? This is something I’ve had to be honest with myself about. Romans 3:23 says “for all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God,” and I cannot stress this enough when I say I definitely fall into that category. And there have been times when I know what I was doing was wrong. There have also been times when I thought maybe, sorta, kinda, that something wasn’t quite wrong, so maybe it’s okay? I encourage you to ask yourself the question, before you make any decision about what you’re going to do on that Friday night to decompress after a long week: Am I glorifying Jesus by (fill in the blank with whatever)? That should answer your question.

The average American college student has been force fed the lie their whole life that “you can’t go through college without (insert sin here).” You may feel differently, but this is something I was told my whole life. By the grace of God and the strength that comes from Him, I have remained strong in many areas of my faith, while faltering in others. I just want to tell you that this statement is a lie from Satan. He wants the college student to believe this, because the second you do is the same second he has you right where he wants you. Be different. Stand out for Jesus. Youth is not an excuse to sin. Youth is an opportunity, which leads to my third and final point….

3. The Importance of the College Christian

“Let no one despise your youth, but be an example to the believers in word, in conduct, in love, in spirit, in faith, in purity.” -1 Timothy 4:12

I cannot stress how important this verse is, and how important you are. Paul says in this verse how important we as young people are to the Lord. He knew how much good could be accomplished through the college student. This is the main point I wanted to get to, and wanted to share with so many college students: The Lord’s Kingdom has so much work that needs to be done, and we can do so much of it while we are in college.

The way we talk, the way we act, the way we treat people, the way we believe, and the way we simply live is the only way some people may see Jesus. Paul says to “imitate me, as I also imitate Christ.” I have had an experience in my life here recently where I touched someone with the gospel, and never opened the Bible. They were brought to Jesus through the way I lived my life. This is not to brag on myself, this is to give motivation to all of us that people do see the example we live as Christians, and that we CAN make a difference in this world.

I want to wrap this up by quoting a passage out of a devotional book that has been such an inspiration to be as a college student struggling to balance all the stressors of life while still serving Jesus:

“A Christian has a unique set of values. Remember, he is a citizen of Heaven. He should conduct himself accordingly. He will talk like Jesus. He will not use perverse language. He will do only things that would be acceptable to Jesus. He will not go to places that are enthralled with sin. He will not run with those of the world (1 Peter 4:4). He will live his life in such a way that he is blameless. Now the world can look at him and see Christ and glorify the Father in Heaven. And perhaps there would be some in the world that would see his life and decide that such a life is what they want, too.

I hope that these thoughts have encouraged you, because they’ve encouraged me. In a world that seems to be going the wrong direction, we can be the difference. As college students who are trying to get our whole lives figured out, we can make the difference if we put Jesus first, stand out for Him, and try to show others Jesus through our lives. If you’re a college student, I hope you realize that we are the next generation of Christians that will be leading the work of the Kingdom. We are the ones who will choose to serve God or not. We are the ones that can change the world with the love and gospel of Jesus Christ. If we can all come together and make it our goal to do that, the results will have eternal value.

So keep working hard for that degree, but give God the glory through your life while doing it.