25 Days of Christmas (Day 22)

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(Day 22) Jenson Jones (and Joel Thomas)

“If Jesus is the lamb of God and Mary is Jesus’ mother, did Mary have a little lamb?”

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The art of forgiveness

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Forgiveness.  Is there anything harder to do in the entire world than to forgive someone you feel wronged by?  I sincerely doubt it.

The funny thing is that so many times, people act as though they do something amazing by forgiving others.  But in many ways, once you are able to forgive, you are the one released from all bitterness and hate.  Forgiveness is not even something that is entirely our own.  Jesus came into a corrupt, desolate and hateful world, but still forgave.  Giving up his own life to atone for the sins of people who spat and mocked him.  As Christians, this is the type of love we strive to emulate in our lives.  A type of love that is willing to forgive others because we understand that we too need forgiving.

Matthew 6:14-15

Yes, if you forgive others for their sins, your Father in heaven will also forgive you for your sins.  But if you don’t forgive others, your Father in heaven will not forgive your sins.
The above verse explains this to us so well.  Forgiveness isn’t in our hands.  How can we refuse forgiveness to others when God forgave us so freely?  Knowing that as human beings we hold a sinful nature- that only God can help us escape.

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There have been so many times in my life, when I’ve wanted nothing more than to hold unto hate.  But there have been so many more times in my life where people have forgave me, even when there was no reason for them to do so.  No other reason than the fact that they are a child of God and when you’re really close to God- you become like him.  Silly things don’t matter and you’re able to forgive someone who seems unworthy of forgiveness.

Being on the other side of the coin, I value value forgiveness so much.  There comes a point where we need to learn to even forgive ourselves sometimes. And that can be the hardest thing of all to do.  Because realizing we are wrong is so painful to admit, especially to ourselves.

More than anything when we realize how wrong we have been, we value the gift of forgiveness so much more.

What happens when you stop praying?

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What happens when you stop praying?  Seriously, have you ever thought about this?  What really happens during this time?  I am a prayer group leader at my Christian fellowship and I found that there were times when I simply forgot to pray.  Immediately after a big retreat with InterVarsity everyone was so hyped and excited, but as time progressed slowly and slowly things started to pile up with school.  Before I knew it I was sitting on the train and realizing that I hadn’t spent any time in prayer with God for an entire week.  How did this even happen?

The sad part is what it took for me to realize this was because I was beginning to feel weaker and weaker in my faith.  Ever since our retreat my history class has started a new section, the life of Jesus and the old testament.  We are essentially studying the bible together.  The only difference is that instead of praising God in many ways I felt as though God was being attacked.

The funny thing is that the minute I felt as though I was being attacked I retreated instead of pulling closer to God.  I let these words being spoken against my father break me and I stopped praying.  When I realized this I couldn’t even understand how I allowed myself to do this.  Here I was in the Christian battlefield and as arrows are being flung against me, instead of pulling out my armor I decide to walk out defenseless into an open field.

Luckily, even when I am so careless, God is always in control and covered me so carefully and wonderfully when I was unworthy.

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We forget that limits do not apply when we are talking to the creator of heaven and earth.  We are so used to the way in which things are done in our lives that the idea of something supernatural or beyond our understanding is incomprehensible.  This is because we are human beings, are more than anything else we are so limited.

But this limit is not placed on God.  You may feel as though you have no control, and you may not.  The important thing is that God does have control and he’s the only thing that actually matters.

It’s easy to be a Christian in the constraints of a Christian club and church.  Being a Christian means going out where no one else believes what you believe and standing firm on your ground.

Its funny because I remember saying how I was so angry about registering for this teacher because he had amazing reviews on ratemyprofessor.com and I was so sure he would be good.  I never anticipated how against religion he would be.  He told us to try being Christians in the finance world and reap all of the pain that comes along with that.  But when I mentioned this to other people they told me I was wrong and that he had horrible ratings on line and that I must have read them wrong.  Their words were enough for me to doubt something I was confident of.

When I went home a few hours later I remembered what they said and looked up ratings for my teacher again, they were amazing.  I was right and I doubted myself because of what other people around me told me.

So many times I fee l like this very same thing happens when I’m in history class.  I know what I believe, I have evidence in my very life to prove it.  But when I am told I am wrong, its hard for me not to stand my ground.

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God calls us to be so much more.  God wants so much more from us.  And this is why prayer is so important.  This is our direct connection to our father and our King of Kings.  As long as you are willing to pray, you will hear from God.  But in the process you must also rid yourself of everything else that comes before him in your life.

Time is one of the most important things in the world.  Stop giving your time to people who hurt you, things that do not matter and wasting away your life.  You become more and more like the people you surround yourself with.  Surround yourself with the presence of God, and pray to your father.

Realizing that I am not perfect, and that I don’t have to be

I am not perfect.  I am not even close to being perfect.  I am perfectly fine with this fact, but I haven’t always felt this way.  I’ve always been inclined towards learning English and Social Studies in school.  I actually dread going to classes like Math.  I’ve just never had an aptitude towards it and learning the information sometimes feels like my teeth and being pulled from its root.  Needless to say, it’s not fun for me.

Keeping this in mind, I’ve always been envious of the people in my class who just understood Math.  They would sit next to me and just instantly absorb the information with such ease and cadence that I genuinely wondered if I was missing something.  I would watch as they did math problems so rhythmically that it almost looked like they were doing a dance.  It bewildered me.

This was until I became a Communications tutor at my college.  Communications has always been so intuitive to me.  When I was taking the introductory class I found it so silly that we were taught the necessary components of an introduction.  How could someone not know how to structure their words logically for a speech?  I was so wrong.  Students would come in who were so lost as to how to organize their speeches.  The funny part was that a lot of these students would comment that they were math minors and that their communications class was taking all of their spare time.  I found it so ironic because this class was the one class I genuinely enjoyed and easily did well in.  Giving speeches felt like a dance for me and it never seizes to make me happy.

It was then that I came to an amazing realization.  I am not perfect, and this is okay.  God made me the way I am for a reason.  I do not like math for a reason, and that’s okay.  It’s fine that I need to put more work into my math classes, because someone else puts more work into English.  It’s okay that I sometimes fail and don’t do as well as I would have hoped.  It’s okay for me to not be perfect.

We serve a God who forms us so perfectly, with his plan and purpose in mind from the start.  I believe its time we stopped hating ourselves and focusing on our weakness, and instead lean on God when we are in need.

2 Corinthians 12:9

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”  Therefor I will boast all the more gladly about my weakness, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.

Happy Black Friday!

Nina

(Apologies for not posting in so long, its been hard to get back to normalcy since Hurricane Sandy!)

 

the Big Event: Sophomore year

For those of you who have never heard of “Big Event” its basically a yearly InterVarsity retreat in which college students have the opportunity to register for different tracks to learn about God with people from different colleges in small groups.  Small groups are normally…small groups of people, I know who would have thought that’s what it meant?  Please bear with me as I write this post, I realize that for those of you who have never heard of Big Event everything I’m saying will sound really odd to you.

Well this was my second year in InterVarsity and because I got involved from the get go, it was my second time at Big Event.  The previous year I had the opportunity to go to both Big Event and Basielia (InterVarsity’s second retreat which is longer and holds less schools).  Before going I remember everyone telling me I would love it so much that I would have so much fun and that it would change everything.  In all honesty leaving both Big Event and Basielia my freshman year I definitely did change a lot but those retreats felt bland for me.  I was watching everyone else doing all these amazing things and even though I did benefit, I wasn’t enjoying things on the same level as other people.  In fact there were times during Baseila that I just felt sad and confused because I wasn’t sure why I was feeling the way I felt.  I never shared this with anyone in my chapter because I didn’t want to be the person to bring other people down.  So I plastered a smile on my face and focused on everything that was actually good that was going in during the retreat.

My mentality was so off for those two retreats.  I literally walked into Big Event knowing everything everyone had said about it in the past and felt entitled to an amazing experience because I payed money.  I wasn’t excited and I expected other people to make me excited.  It was because I knew something was wrong that I refused to approach Big Event this year the same way I approached Big Event all other times in the past.

Before registering for Big Event I was asked along with some other people in my chapter to register for the leadership track.  That was something I really didn’t want to do, I wish I could explain just how much I didn’t want to do it.  In fact I guess I can explain it to you right now.  Registering for that track scared me and intimidated me because I didn’t feel as though I was good enough for it.  So I told my exec team I would register for it and purposely waited until the track was closed to beg my mom for permission to register for Big Event.  I had technically asked her back when leadership was open but because I didn’t want to go for that track I asked in a way that I knew she wouldn’t be happy or say yes.  It was only when I really needed to register that she said yes.  And by then I looked at the mess I made for myself and was actually kind of sad but at the same time incredibly happy.  Happy because I made a promise in my mind that I would get the most out of my track this year.  The track I registered for was Transformation or Foundations and mistakenly registering for it may have been the best decision I ever made for so many reasons.

Growing up in church I felt as though I knew God because I gave him my 3 hours once a week.  I had my idea in my head of what God was to me and I was satisfied putting him into a box.  For so long I felt as though I was trying to build a roof to this house while my foundations were crumbling beneath me.  I needed to be sure that I knew exactly who the God I was serving actually was.   Being honest with you again, I had it all so wrong.

During my retreat I realized that I wasn’t the only person who felt the same way about retreats in the past.  I wasn’t the only person who felt like I was really missing something important.  But somehow it took me going to Baseilia and feeling so sad to know that I couldn’t keep going on my walk with God the same way I had always done so.  I really needed to change the way I approached God in my life and I needed to learn to put him first.  I realized that if I had opened up earlier I would have saved so much heartache and even sympathized and grown with someone else who was going through what I was going through.  We eventually did get to sympathize with one another but only at this year’s Big Event!  Funny how things work out right?

I was also struggling with vulnerability.  Most of the time I feel like people are afraid to open up and that this is why they cannot grow.  My problem was that I felt as though I was being too vulnerable with too many people.  I grew up in a house where my mom would sit down with me everyday and ask me to open up to her about my feelings, that was the way I was raised to act.  And I felt like there was something wrong with me because it seemed like no one else felt the same way about opening up as me.  What I realized for myself this was past weekend was that I needed to be vulnerable.  I really needed to be open and honest about my feelings with the people in my life.  Because I’d rather have a bunch of people know this mangled, messed up and growing mess of a person that I am that is not perfect than to have a bunch of people know me on such a superficial level that they don’t actually know who I am.  But that’s just me.  Maybe I’ll change my mind about this 10 years from now but if I ever did I would need to stop blogging.  I would need to stop blogging because my soul is kind of sprawled out on all of these posts that literally anyone could pick up and read.  I’m okay with that though.  Because I know I am not the only person who feels the way that I feel.

Big Event this year was amazing.  It was absolutely amazing and so much more than I thought it would be.  But it also wasn’t easy.  I left Big Event feeling great but also knowing that the real work starts now with my relationship with God and even my relationships with people. I realized somehow that I didn’t understand what it meant to love people the way God loves us, or even how to love God the way he loves me.  I know that I am so flawed and I know that I have so much to learn but now I am ready to learn more about God than ever before.

 

What does it mean to have the mind of Christ?

Hello everyone!  I can’t believe its already September 26th, I swear I try to keep these blog posts weekly but time flies!    I can’t believe one week has already passed since the last time I made a post.  But, lets stay on topic:  The Mind of Christ.  This was my topic for High Teens Speech, I do these yearly competitions in which I am required to prepare a speech in 10 minutes and then deliver it within a 5-minute period.  Needless to say, it can be VERY stressful.  My age group is High Teens so I compete against everyone in my age group.

This year our topic was the mind of Christ and I was so happy because earlier in the day I messed up my essay on Stewardship, a topic I thought meant being a servant of God but actually meant using your resources fully.  Obviously I was kind of off.

Being honest if I had not wrote an entire essay about the nature of God being that of a servant, I would not have spoken about this during my speech.  When I first thought about the very nature of God I thought of purity.  I would think about the God was sees our sins and is disgusted.  I would have never once thought about Jesus who went and washed his disciples feet as we can see in John 13: 8:

“ ‘No’ said Peter, ‘you shall never wash my feet.’ Jesus answered, ‘Unless I wash you, you will have no part with me.’”

This is the God we serve, who took on the very nature of man and came to earth to serve others.  How humbling is this?

We had a bible study with a few people from my InterVarsity chapter (Christian fellowship on campus) and we looked into the story of Stephen which is told from Acts 6:8-8:2, or at least that was the portion we looked at together.  I couldn’t help but think of how humble Stephen was through everything- it was never about him.

I couldn’t get a bible verse out of mind so we spent some time trying to find it and it was actually John 3:30 which reads:

“He must increase, but I must decrease.”

THIS is the relationship that we have with God.  One in which we are made smaller and smaller because we want God to be glorified rather than ourselves.

When I look at my life and everything I do, it is because I want recognition, I want to be acknowledged.  But this wasn’t the way we were meant to be.  We are created to be servants before God, laying everything we have down before his feet.  Laying our needs, our desires, our wants, everything.

And it’s so scary to think that maybe what we want from our lives does not align with what God wants from us.  But this is something we must accept whole heartily.  I don’t want to be Stephen who was stoned to death; I don’t want that for myself or for my life.  But if God wants this from me I must accept this.  Accepting this is scary and hard, but we must also know how important it is to place everything into God’s hands.  He knows us, he knows us so well and he knows what we need and what is best for us.

The funny thing when God comes last

I found myself thinking about this on the last night of my christian retreat, I realized that I had not once thought about God.  At my christian retreat.  Ironic, or pathetic?  You choose.

And I feel like this has become an epidemic that is plaguing our nation, or more so our churches.  Meetings, conferences,retreats and God somehow comes last.  God is a burden or an after thought.  God doesn’t even come second, he comes last.

It’s sad and its heartbreaking because when God’s not in the equation, everything else just crumbles and falls apart.  I’ve heard of conferences where the “norm” was skipping out on the main meetings to hang out with friends.  Where people go for the sole reason of bonding with their friends.

I believe that there is nothing wrong with wanting to spend time with people you love.  Even taking time out to do so is fine.  But when a conference is centered around God, and somehow he’s put last?  Something is wrong.

The sad part was I believed I didn’t have a choice, but I did.  In life we always have a choice.  And I realized that when I did pray, you could just feel the power of God move so greatly.

Psalm 107:28-30 Then they cried to the LORD in their trouble, and he delivered them from their distress. He made the storm be still, and the waves of the sea were hushed. Then they were glad that the waters were quiet, and he brought them to their desired haven

 

THIS is the God we serve.  I found myself so ashamed when I realized that I was putting him last.  I was more worried about how I looked, what clothes I was wearing and what social activity was happening next.  Worse than anything was when I let drama take hold and forgot to even turn to God.
But the amazing thing about God is that even if we fail over and over again, he still forgives.
So if you’re like me and put God last, its never too late, and you always have a choice.  Bring God back to your “christian” outings, bring God back to your life.  And then see how much you have been missing in your life.