Wednesday, December 28, 2016

NY Resolution: Treat Yo Self

(Image obtained through Google...not mine!)

New Year's resolutions can seem a little cheesy and, lets face it, we almost never stick to them. Our resolution to lose weight ends as quickly as it begins or we don't travel the world like we vowed to do at the beginning of January. Some might even call these resolutions cliche. I am one of those people. Resolutions are too easily broken, hardily ever genuine, and many people just make something up on the eve of New Years without even really putting much thought into how it will be accomplished. So would you be surprised to learn that I have a resolution this year?

Sometimes you reach crossroads in your life when you realize that you are carrying things that are no longer self-serving. These burdens are warned about in the bible. Jesus tells us in Matthew 11:

"Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light."
In the past year, I have realized that I have a hard time letting go of some of my burdens. While I may hand big things over to Jesus (school, financial worries, etc), I find myself breaking my back over little things. Every night I go to bed and I pray that the next day I am used as a servant. Servitude is so so important, however I find that sometimes I don't put me first enough.

This may sound somewhat backwards from what Jesus commands us to do. We're supposed to serve others, right? Absolutely! Serve others in your words and actions, help them carry their burdens (Galatians 6:2), put others first in whatever you do. However, sometimes we may find it hard to serve others because we ourselves are mentally exhausted, physically worn-down, and just in need of a break. I've found this true in my own life time and time again. 

So this year, as my first New Year's resolution, I plan on following a new "Treat Yo Self" philosophy. Others will be put first in my life always, however sometimes to do that in a way that best lovingly points others to Jesus, I must put myself first and take care of my own burdens, and I encourage you to do the same. 

Take time to enjoy your life and to pamper yourself. Take hot baths, read good books, go for a run or stretch it out, lay in bed for a really long time, sit on Pinterest for a few hours, have coffee on the front porch alone, whatever it is that relaxes you, but take time out for you to be alone with God and reset yourself. The world is a busy place and life moves fast, it's so easy to become a worrisome grouch. I truly believe the first step in serving others is serving yourself and making sure that you are mentally and emotionally ready to help lighten someone else's load.

Jesus' 40 day stay in the desert certainly was no hot bath or self-vacation, however he used that time alone to do exactly this: Get yourself on track with God, be alone and secluded, and get yourself straight before you help others get straight. 

I hope this blog entry helps you set a real, attainable, and highly important New Years resolution. You officially have permission to take a day off in your pjs and read a book completely doing you. 
Happy relaxing!

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Finals Week in Engineering as Told by The Grinch

Finals week is a hard time for almost anyone, however it can turn even the most resilient engineering student a little....

When you're asked what the biggest take-away from your Environmental Engineering class was:

Finishing up everything you've learned this semester by going over all of the regulations like:

When your professor tells you that you need to remember the equations:

Filling out your class evaluations on the last day and letting out all of your pent-up frustrations:

When your first day of studying lasts 14 hours...

Those late nights at the library when most other majors are long gone:

When the week is halfway over, others are already done with their finals (and you're not), and they're feeling the Christmas spirit:

When your brain is fried and your friend asks you if you want to go to a Christmas party...

...But then the anxiety gets the best of you and you decide to stay in and study:

When you're trying to get the most out of your 4 hours of sleep but your neighbors aren't taking finals week as seriously as you have to:

But FINALLY the testing is over and you can finally walk away from campus stress-free

But there is one thing left to do....

Passing your friend that still has a final to take but you're officially okay to get turnt on the holiday spirit:

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

S: Sufficiency of Christ

**Before you read this you must scroll down and read O: Offense of Sin**

I have tried to start this post a dozen different ways, but the only way I know how to is with praise. Thank you, God, that we have gotten to S. Thank you, Jesus, for never ever letting us walk alone. Thank you that the sufficiency of Christ is not only "sufficient" but more than enough, overflowing, abundant. Thank you for immeasurable love and sound guidance.

A clip from Ephesians 2:

 "As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. 3 All of us also lived among them at one time,gratifying the cravings of our flesh[a] and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath. But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressionsit is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace,expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. 8 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. 10 For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do."

The beginning of this passage establishes what the post from last time said: all of us, every single person to ever exist or who will ever exist has committed an offense against God. We were paying at a cash register and were told "You dont have enough". We weren't enough.

But then Jesus Christ, the of God, the essence of God in the flesh, withdrew into the pits of hell and rescued us. He handed the cashier $5 and told her to keep the change sot hat we would have no price to pay. All of us had a price tag on our heads and he paid it all in full. 

I used to wonder as a kid how one man just dying saved the entire human race. It wasn't until I was about 16 that something finally clicked: it had nothing to do with Jesus dying. It had a little to do with him rising from the dead. But it had a lot to do with what happened between those 2 events.

As I said before, we each have a price on our heads, and each price had to be paid. The wrath of God did not just simply go away when Jesus was nailed to the cross, He endured it for all of mankind. Think about the way I tried to describe hell in my last post. It's hard to imagine a place so terrible. In fact, it's entirely impossible to imaging a place void of love, God, and goodness. But just thinking about one of your loved ones having to endure it for eternity and then some sends tears to your eyes. 

Realize that Jesus had to endure the pain and wrath of hell for every person that has ever or will ever exist. 

Jesus drank the entire cup of God's wrath and then turned it upside down so that not even a single drop could escape. 

I use the term "had to endure" very loosely because in fact that wording is false. He did not have to. This was not something that God made him do, it was a choice. If you read the passages dealing with Satan's temptation of Jesus in the desert, you realize that at any point during Jesus' time on Earth he could have beckoned an angel army to him and peaced out. By no means was he being forced to stay here, to endure the pain and the burden. It was a choice that he made out of love and compassion. 

At the exact moment that Jesus took his last breath, scripture says that the veil was torn. This veil is the same veil that literally had to separate God from the worshiper in temples back in the Old Testament. There was not a personal relationship with God. There were rules so perfect that human nature could not possibly obey them, which is where Christ stepped in. He took our religion from rigid, legalistic, and impossible to personal, loving, and relieving. Jesus says his burden is light because he's already born the shame and ridicule. He has done the dirty work, all you have to do is respond (stay tuned next for that post next).

When Jesus died, the Bible is very careful to mention all of the witnesses that were around for his burial. On top of witnesses, he had guards standing by the tomb because the government feared the disciples would steal his body from the tomb in order to seemingly fulfill scripture. However, 3 days later and without the guards being distracted or having a lapse in attention, the tomb was found empty with only the linens used to bury the dead found laying there. 

Up from the grave He arose. 

Jesus had endured the wrath of God and defeated death. Hell has no victory, the battle has already been won. Yet we continue to act like religion has too many rules.

If your religion tells you that you need anything other than salvation exclusively through Jesus Christ and only Jesus Christ then your religion is not Christianity. Christ is sufficient enough. Paul tells us very plainly in Colossians 2 that any religion that tells you you must not eat something, do something, wear something, or be something is entirely false upon itself and suggests that Jesus was not enough and you need a little extra something to gain salvation. Yes, Christians often are encouraged to not have sex before marriage, curse, party hardy, etc, but these things are not a deal breaker. Paul tells us that characteristics such as these among Christians lead us to question whether or not the person ever truly accepted Jesus and was saved because by nature Christianity is life-changing and a truly Christ-centered heart should not be focused on wordly things, however there is nothing extra that you must do to earn salvation.

The only reason the above paragraph belongs in this post is to establish that CHRIST IS ENOUGH.
I can't say that louder, can't harp on it anymore. There is no need to have anything else. No good works can save you, no abstinence from food or sex can save you, and no religious practices such as observing the Sabbath or being baptized can save you. Jesus is and always will be the only way, no matter how "religious" you are or how great of a person you are. Always know that nothing you do on your own is enough, Jesus is the only answer. This is a puzzle that only has 1 piece which is Christ. That is all you need. Never, never forget that. 

And never forget that, no matter what the media or the government tries to tell you, God is love. He (and we, hopefully) is love, grace, kindness, generosity, mercy, healing, omniscient, omnipotent, ruler, king, Lord, savior, greater. 

I'm sure this post is scattered but dealing with something as precious as this has the ability to cloud one's thoughts. If you walk away from this knowing that you deserve darkness, pain, misery, suffering, but Jesus bore that burden for you and now you have life, healing, joy, and salvation then my goal is accomplished. Know that Jesus is enough. He is the ONLY way to salvation. 

Next post I will discuss P: personal response.
If you took away from this post what I hope you did then you will learn how to respond to this outpouring of love.

Saturday, May 21, 2016

O: Offense of Sin

Oh boy. This part of the series is a doozy. This is the part of the story that no one wants to hear. Society as a whole (and honestly modern churches) kinda skim over this and "get to the good stuff". If the Bible was a movie, the "sin" scene would be when you got up to refill your popcorn. But the truth is that its real and its the only way to indeed "get to the good stuff", so here we go.

A long time ago in a land far far away God made the heavens and the Earth and people. He loved the people and he gave all he had to the people. The people loved him and obeyed him out of love and respect, knowing he only lovingly walked with them. However, a voice kept talking to the people, convincing them with dripping deceit that they had been deceived by this God, that they weren't truly loved by Him. The voice told them he can't be trusted, that his ways were unfair, that he didn't want their minds to be open to everything that the world had to offer them (oh, how we hear this same voice every day in so many different forms). And so the people made the single worst decision in human history and listened to a worldly voice instead of an out-of-this-world God. They sinned against God.

This action- this sin- told God that they thought they knew better than Him. That they had this thing in the bag and he could just mosey on off and keep ruling the universe and stuff. They told him in essence that they didn't trust him, that they were questioning his love for them, that they didn't need his guidance or compassion. On this day, mankind partnered with Satan and tried to kill the very essence and character of the Almighty Creator. And you and I do the same thing every single day.

I think that this article is crucial. I think that as Christians, you and I must come face to face with who we really are underneath the getup that we put on. I think to be on right terms with God and to fully get the gospel, we have to understand the facts. So here goes nothing.

You and I are sinners. Our very being hates God. He makes our worldly skin crawl. Almost every natural instinct we have tells us to go against his guidance, to give into what we want no matter who it affects. Our feet hit the floor and we commit a dozen offenses against God before we even go to work. We separate ourselves from protection, perfection, immeasurable love, humility, grace, mercy, and guidance and sometimes we even have the audacity to be proud of it. And that only means one thing.

We deserve eternal damnation. We deserve an eternity away from true love because every minute we deny that God is God. I'm going to discuss S: Sufficiency of Christ next week in great detail, however we are faced with 2 and ONLY two options: Accept Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior and know that he died on the cross and endured all of God's wrath for the very sins that you and I committed yesterday and today and tomorrow or spend an eternity away from God.

The reason that the gospel message is so important is because of that very reality. There is no other way around it. Good works won't get you to heaven. Being a "nice guy" will not land you a spot in front of those pearly gates. If you donate a day of your life every single week to volunteering or some form of charity, that still isn't cutting it. No other religion or "savior" gets you there either. There is but ONE way to escape the inevitable fate of mankind and that is through accepting JESUS CHRIST.  

What does "forever" in hell look like?

I don't know. I can not imagine a place where God's love cannot be seen neither here nor there. I can not imagine a place where pain and suffering exclusively exist together for stretches of time that literally never end. I can not imagine a place that is void of all goodness, all hope, all joy for forever and ever and ever and then some. All suffering, all work, all wrath and pain and agony. I don't want to know what the looks like.

 But it makes me cry.

And the reality is that every single human being who has ever stepped foot on Earth has fallen far short of what he/she was created to be and have slapped the face of the very same creator who crafted the universe and we deserve that terrible, awful place that makes me cry. And like a brand new iPhone, our factory settings are set to "hell". The reality is that every single person who does not accept Jesus as their Lord and Savior are automatically sent to this place. Any person who hasn't even heard of Jesus has the same fate.

That is why the Gospel message is so urgent. That is why your very essence must positively ooze Jesus. It is that crucial. It is of immediate, 911, need to do right now importance. Because it's up to you. Imagine your own very near and dear loved ones who may or may not have the Gospel message a little mixed up and your heart absolutely shatters and you realize just how urgent that this message is. Next week I get to tell you of the immense love and mercy and grace that was and is extended to you every single day and that story is the most important story you will ever hear in your entire existence and it is absolutely vital that you know it and believe it and tell it to anyone who will listen, no matter the cost because the alternative is absolutely unbearable to consider.

Francis Schaffer, when asked how he would disciple to someone who has never heard the gospel before in just one hour, replied:

"I would spend 45-50 minutes on the negative, to really 
show him his dilemma- that he is morally dead- then
take 10-15 minutes to preach the Gospel. I believe that
much of our evangelistic and personal work today is not 
clear simply because we are too anxious to get to the answer
 without having a man realize the real cause of his sickness, which 
is true moral guilt (and not just psychological guilt feelings)
in the presence of God."

This message is so vital that we should spend about 4/5ths of our evangelistic time addressing the problem. And I agree. People are falling apart today because society has deemed sin offensive (as they should) and in return "feel good" churches kinda sweep it up under a rug. Don't get me wrong, I am a far cry from a "fire and brimstone" kinda gal, but as a logical and mathematical person I understand that before a solution can be found, the problem must be clearly stated and understood. 

We can not make a person whole by starting the Gospel message in Matthew. 

I do not want anyone to experience an endless amount of time in suffering, where even the sweet relief of death is nowhere to be found. Therefore I am not hesitant to clearly state that that is reality if steps are not taken. 

This is not a fun topic, no, but it is perhaps the most necessary one. It's scary without a doubt, but how blessed and grateful am I that after O comes S, the sufficiency of Christ. In the time being, meditate over the idea that we do not have to experience an eternity away from God because Christ already endured it for us. Not once, but for every single person who has ever and will ever live. I don't know how to express this joy any better than the below verse from "It is Well With My Soul". 

"My sin, oh, the bliss of this glorious thought!
My sin, not in part but the whole,
Is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more,
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!"

Sunday, May 8, 2016

G- God's Character

God's character is probably the most important aspect of the entire Bible, yet it's probably also the aspect that we neglect to think about enough in our own walks with God. The government and a lot of activists groups like to comment on what they think the character of God is like, however you and I are probably not as quick to write up a Facebook post about this instead of writing a post about those same activists groups and their "crazy" ideas (More on that next week). Without the character of God, the Bible doesn't even exist. Who God is creates the very foundation of our faith and we should meditate on the truths of his character daily. 

So who is God?

According to those activists groups or any disgruntled person on any given day, God is a pretty mean guy. He takes a lot of what we want away. He lets terrible things happen in our lives and is full of hate and wrath toward us. Some say that if "God" even is real then its no god that they want to serve. Unfortunately, this view of God is becoming more and more popular. As humans, we search for answers and when we can't find them we shake our fist at the sky and blame our creator.

Thankfully, the people above are completely wrong. They have confused God with the backlash of sin and have turned their bitterness towards the wrong offender. The God who made is so much more than wrath.

God is love. I know you have probably seen that written on some sort of Facebook post where you were prompted to "share it" because God saw you read it, but it's true. God is love in its purest, most untampered form. Like fate, I read 1 Corinthians 13 in my devotional tonight and immediately I knew I had to include it in this post. We usually pull out these verses on engagement posts to put on instagram but never really consider the actual weight of the words.

"Love is patient, love is kind,
Love does not envy, 
it is not boastful or conceited, 
does not act improperly,
is not selfish, is not provoked,
and does not keep a record of wrongs. 
Love finds no joy in unrighteousness
but rejoices in the truth.
It bears all things, believes all things,
hopes all things, endures all things.
Love never fails."
1 Corinthians 13: 4-8

Yes, this is an awesome verse of marriage, but its also an awesome verse for the character of God. God is love.  He is patient, kind, not boastful, not selfish. He keeps no record of wrongs (once you accept Jesus), he rejoices in the truth. He bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. God never fails. 

How amazing is that? On top of that, God is personal. He actively seeks a relationship with you. One of the stories David told about a mission trip he went on somewhere in the Middle East. He was talking to a Buddhist and a Muslim all day and after talking for a while, he asked them a question based on what he had picked up on from their conversation. He said "So if you do all these rituals and pray this amount of times and keep yourself clean, you essentially are journeying up a mountain to get to God, right? And once you get there you're golden." The men agreed, very pleased that he understood. David replied "What if I told you that you don't have to do that. God comes down the mountain and meets you". 

Oh how much of God's unending love and grace do we take for granted? The fact that I can pray to my God any time of the day and know that he is listening to every word that I speak is more than enough. Every Sunday I feel his presence in Church and I know that He is with me. I feel him when I walk through trials or when I'm scared. He knows my name, how many hairs are on my head, what I'm thinking this exact moment, the contents of my heart. What other "god" makes the journey to you where you are? What other "god" allows you to be his without praying a certain amount of times a day or performing certain rituals? There is no one like our God y'all and that is GOOD NEWS.

Our God is perfect. And He made us perfect and I will elaborate on that in such great detail next week. But because of our sin we is also a wrathful God. We must pay for the wrongs that we commit every single day. The price is high, unpayable by the wealthiest of men. No good works can remove the price tag that is on your head. 

But that's okay, because our God is merciful and gracious. He is 3-in-1. He paid the price and took the punishment for every single sin that every single person in the entire world that ever has or is or ever will be has committed. He took the cup of wrath, drank it in full, and then turned it over because it was bone dry and said "It is FINISHED". Yes, don't tell me God isn't love because I am bathing in it. 

God deserves our praises, our adoration, our entire lives and beings. And hopefully by the end of this series we will all be able to agree on that. I think I could discuss who God is and how incredibly tangible he and his love is forever, but I will stop now and let us all meditate on this post, mostly on the last 2 paragraphs written above. Thank God for the glorious lover of souls that he is and remember his goodness. He is more than enough. 

Friday, May 6, 2016

The G.O.S.P.E.L. Truth

David Platt.

If you don't recognize that name, open up a new tab, google it, and immediately watch videos and buy books because trust me, you're going to want to be familiar with that name.

David Platt is a young preacher right here in the southeast who is the most by-the-book, wash-me-in-biblical-truth pastors I've ever heard. I have never read a book or watched a video by him where I did not feel like I was constantly growing in my walk with Christ. Seriously y'all, he's that good. He makes sure that what he says can be backed up by the Bible and is God-breathed and you just don't get that anymore.

Whew, anyway, on to what this post is about.

So David Platt does this thing every year called "Secret Church", inspired by some of his past mission trips in Asia years ago. On these trips, church goers could be killed if the government saw that they were attending church so they literally would risk it all to walk to an underground, undisclosed location and for 12 hours straight they would go through the Bible with David. Yes, the whole Bible. David describes his experiences with them in his book "Radical" (seriously, you have to read it), and it's amazing. It will sure make you think twice about how you walk into your church on Sunday. Well, after these trips, David began to wonder how he could instill the same sense of passion and urgency for the word in his own church back home. So began Secret Church.

It started with just David's church. They would remove some of the comforts in the sanctuary, such as chairs, and hundreds of members would come and sit on the ground for 6 hours and go through a large portion of the Bible. It became so popular that soon thousands attended. It began to be podcasted until it grew into what it is today. Secret Church was one week ago and over 63,000 attended/watched from their own church homes. Dozens and dozens of countries are represented in that number. And it is AMAZING.  God speaks volumes through David every time and it is never a disappointment so I recommend that you check that out next year because it is worth all 6-7 hours.

Now, to what I actually wanted to write this post about...

David's message this year was all about how we can disciple to people of different religions. However, he made sure to start off the night reminding us why it is so vital to spread the good news to everyone that will listen. He did this through an acronym which just so happens to be G.O.S.P.E.L., which inspired me to do a little 6 week series on each of the letters.
Here's what each post will be on:

G: God's Character
O: Offense of Sin
S: Sufficiency of Christ
P: Personal Response
E: Eternal Urgency
L: Life Transformation

I am so looking forward to this new journey that I myself am getting to partake in and I so hope that you all will join me and get something out of it too.

Thursday, March 10, 2016

The Blog if You Don't Know What You're Doing

Today I got the distinct honor of being able to speak to a group of girls in high school and middle school who are interested in possibly pursuing a career in the STEM field. When I was contacted about doing this, I was referred to as a "mentor" and immediately thought  "WOAH, I am not experienced enough for that word or this event". I decided to take it on because going out of your comfort zone is really important in my opinion and who wouldn't want to be called a mentor, am I right?  I went in expecting a group of girls who were all mini-me's, future engineers who had a passion for math and had a million questions about what it's really like to be a woman in engineering school. What I got was not that.

I walked into a group of girls who had no idea what they wanted to do. Some wanted to pursue accounting, athletics, education. Some thought they maybe sorta kinda wanted to go into something sciencey but they weren't sold on anything yet. At first I thought, why are you here? And then I realized that they are mini-me's. I was reminded that though I'm halfway through college and it feels like I've been fully committed to engineering for so long, there was a point in my life where I had no idea what I wanted to do. There was a point in my life where I wanted to be a teacher. There was even a point in my life where I wanted to be a mermaid-bus driver-lunch lady, but that combo was too complicated.

So I asked myself, do any of us really know what we are doing? I'm halfway through engineering school which implies that I should at least halfway know what the heck is going on. But the catch is, I honestly don't. I take my life day by day, never knowing what to expect or if I'm going to make it (I understand that is ridiculously irrational, I get it). I am trying to get an internship and soon a job and I honestly do not even know how to go about that. I don't know what my life will look like in 3 months. I don't know what my life will look like in 2 years. Or 5 years or 10 years or 20 years. And I don't think you do either.

But as I was driving home tonight my favorite Christian song circulating on the radio these days came on, and it was like water washing over me. It reminded me that no matter what I want, it doesn't matter. Its what God wants. His plan is best. If I fail a class, I will trust him. If I don't get an internship right away, I will trust him. If you have no idea what your day tomorrow looks like like me, let alone your next few years, trust Him. He's the only predictable, stable thing. The rock won't move. I think its super important to take a time out and reflect on this so I encourage you to listen to the video below because it truly is amazing. Im also a major believer in reading what inspires you, so I wrote out the best lyrics from the song below. If you listen to this song and read those words and your whole body isn't covered in goosebumps and you don't feel like you could do literally anything because God's got you, I don't know how to help you. God Bless, y'all.

"You are my strength and comfort,
You are my steady hand,
You are my firm foundation; the rock on which I stand,

Your ways are always higher,
Your plans are always good,
There's not a place where I'll go, You've not already stood

When you don't move the mountains I needed you to move,
When you don't part the waters I wish I could walk through,
When you don't give the answers as I cry out to you,
I will trust, I will trust, I will trust in you,"