Jesus Wants The Rose

Do you feel unloveable because of your sin? Listen to this great reminder of the gospel from Pastor Matt Chandler. Jesus still wants you!

“…God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8

4 Wrong Reasons to Date

Dating is on the minds of almost every college student. If we are single, we walk into a room scoping out every corner for potential dating material. We are either dating or looking to date. Unfortunately, the culture of college tells us we always have to be on the look out, and because of this mindset, we jump into relationships before we are ready or with someone who does us more harm than good. In the end, we get hurt, and so do they. We lose track of who we are, and who we want to be. So before we commit ourselves to another person, let’s make sure we have our heart in the right place. Here are a few motivations that will lead us into a unhealthy relationship:

We Are Bored

Sometimes we just get lonely. While every one else is out on their date night, we have our own date with Netflix. And many times, we envy that other couple, not because of the relationship, but because they have someone they can always hang out with. We think, “If I was dating someone, I would have something to do on Friday nights.” If this is our motivation, it probably means we aren’t in the relationship because we care about the other person, but instead, we only care about what the other person can give. Which leads us to put pressure on them to always care for our needs and serve us. This sets up the relationship to be life-taking instead of life-giving.

We Are Incomplete Without Them

Matt Chandler often refers to the unfortunate, famous line, “You complete me,” from Jerry Maguire to have set up false assumptions for relationships. The over romanticized idea goes like this: if we can just get with this guy or girl, everything in our life will make sense. They will give us meaning. They will fix all of our past problems. They will be the answer to what’s missing in our life. But the truth is, they’re sinners just like we are. Going into a relationship where we place all of our hope on the other person saving the day is ultimately going to crush them. Then, in turn, it’s going to crush us.

No other fallen individual is going to be able to offer us the satisfaction we long for. Only Christ offers true satisfaction. And he doesn’t just complete us; he”transforms us into his image with ever increasing glory” (2 Corinthians 3:18). Not only does he transform us, but he never changes. His desires are always for our good. Once again, another person, at some point in the relationship, is going to only have what’s best for them in mind. They will change. They will hurt us. So when looking for a relationship, let’s rework the idea of ‘You complete me,”to “You push me towards Jesus.”

“Don’t ask others to be more than they were designed to be; they will fail you. Put your hope in God, not in men” – Matt Chandler

We Are Tired of Being Single

In our culture, singleness is normally portrayed as an unfortunate period of time. The common idea is to push through it, and God will bless us in the end with someone. Well here’s the deal, singleness needs to be seen as a blessing from God as well. So many young adults feel they aren’t doing something right if they are single. It’s seen as a problem. But we need to rethink this idea. God gives us periods of singleness as a gift. Paul even said in 1 Corinthians 7:7 that he “wishes that all were as I myself am,” single for life. If we are single, let’s not rush out of the season just to be with someone. We are given singleness to learn to find contentment in Christ, to learn who we are as an individual, and to learn to pursue holiness before we pursue a relationship. With this in mind, let us not rush out of singleness just to be in a relationship, but instead, let us rest in God’s timing and enjoy the git of singleness.

We Have Done All the Right Things

“God, I’ve done good, so I think it’s about time you give me a relationship.” This might be the most prevalent thought of all, and it also might be the most severe that we must fight. At the root of this thought is this: we think God owes us something.That God can be indebted to us after we “do good.” But God does not work through negotiations. We don’t come to God saying, “I’ll do that if You give me this.” Unfortunately, we probably have all had this state of heart at some point. We have looked at others’ lives and told ourselves that we are a better person, and in turn, we have argued with God that we deserve someone more than they do.

In order to push against this idea, let’s bring ourselves back to these two truths: God owes us nothing, and we cannot put God in our debt. Now when we look at our love life through this lens, we see that its not about twisting God’s arm to make him give us what we want, but its about resting in his arms and wanting what he wants. And what he wants is our good (Romans 8:28). So that might mean we find our husband or wife in college, or that could mean we find them when we’re 60. That’s not our call. It’s his. Our call is to be obedient to his revealed will. Which strictly means this, “seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you” (Matthew 6:33). It’s not our choice if a relationship will be added to us. It is our choice if we pursue God daily. If we do this, it does not promise us someone. But God does promise us his joy, which is far greater than any “love” some other person can offer.

Be You. Not a Version of Someone Else.

We all have role models. People we look up to and want to emulate every thing they have done. When we think about our future, we think about what steps they took and try to figure out how we can do the same. Many guys like myself who feel God calling them into ministry look up to men like Matt Chandler, David Platt, and Francis Chan. The tendency is to listen to the way these men communicate and tell ourselves that’s what successful preaching has to be. And then every sermon we prep is based upon a template of one of their sermons. But when it comes time for us to preach from the stage, we sound nothing like them. In fact, we sound nothing like our self. We have no clue what or how we are trying to communicate, and when this finally happens, we have to ask our self what are we doing? Why are we trying to be the next version of someone else instead of being the best version of ourself?

This is not something that only happens to young men with a desire to preach God’s word. It’s prevalent in every area of occupation. If you desire to be a journalist, a teacher, a politician, a doctor, or any of the other million jobs out there, you have someone in your mind you desire to be just like. Which in itself is actually a good thing. It gives us a target to aim for, a goal. We see the way they go about their work, and we want to learn from them. But the moment we step past just wanting to learn from them towards wanting to actually be them, we have lost sight of the fact that we are unique in God’s sight.

A Masterpiece

God works creatively through our lives, and perfectly forms us into the person he designed us to be. As Psalm 139:13 says, “You formed my inward parts; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.” God is the creator of all things including each and every one of us. He is the artist, and we are the canvas that he is painting. And his painting started before we were even born. God already knew what his finished piece of art would look like, but as with every great artist, he knew the details of the process are what makes the work beautiful. And we are not just some offhand sketch. We are God’s magnum opus. In Ephesians 2:10, Paul says, “We are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” This word workmanship translates to mean: “a work of art or a masterpiece.” Paul does not say here that a select number of people were created and labeled his masterpiece. But it says we all were created and pronounced to be God’s greatest work of art.

Uniquely Made

Not only are we God’s masterpiece, but we are unique and known by God. We have a story that only we have lived out. No one else knows what we have been through, except God. As Jeremiah 1:5 says, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you.” God has been preparing us to and molding us into the beautiful image he wants to make out of us. He did not create us to live just like some other successful person, but he created us to live in way only we ourselves could. Our past experiences do not define us, but they have brought us to where we are today. Our past mistakes do not disqualify us, but they are lessons that only we have learned. Our past successes do not carry us to victory today, but they have taught us how to handle God’s favor. Our past experiences are God’s brush strokes forming the outline of his calling on our life. They give us the worldview by which we live out the rest of our life in a specific way only we can.

Be Different

So instead of mimicking someone else, notice how God has uniquely gifted you and pursue that gifting. We all “have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them” (Romans 12:6), and the sooner we realize this, the better. Just because we have different giftings than others does not mean we can’t look to them as role models anymore. Actually this frees us up to see both their successes and their failures. When we see both, we don’t just look to be like them, but we look to learn from them. We can draw from the good things they do and incorporate them into what we do, and we can look at what they have done poorly and make sure we don’t fall into the same mistakes. For me I used to look at the guys like Chan, Platt, and Chandler and wish I could be them, especially with their sphere of influence and fame. You probably look up to someone who has a popular following as well. One thing for us to remember is this: success is not a number. It is faithful labor. So let us not tell the artist how we think the painting should look. But instead, let us get to know the artist so deeply that we understand the intention of his masterpiece.

The Time is Now

Being a student is a time of preparation. While in high school we prepare for college or a job if we plan to go directly into the workforce. While in college we choose a major and spend four years, or five if you take the popular “victory lap,” preparing to do the job we hope to do the rest of our lives. We sit through long lectures, we do hours of homework, and participate in summer internships so that we can prepare ourselves for what lies ahead. The first 22 years of our lives are all about preparing for the 70 years that follow.

While working with high schoolers and middle schoolers in youth ministry and also being around my college age friends, as well as looking at my own life, I’ve noticed something. We are so programmed to prepare for our future that this often transfers over to our walk with Christ. We start to believe that life doesn’t really start until we’re done with school so truly following Jesus doesn’t start until then either.

I believe that preparation is a great thing. It’s important that we prepare in college for our future job. It makes me feel very good that it takes so much schooling and preparation to become a medical doctor. I wouldn’t want someone operating on me who isn’t prepared. And as Christians we need to prepare ourselves by learning about Christ in the Word, reading books by Christian authors, and growing closer to Christ every single day. But we also have a mission…

In Matthew 28:18-20 Jesus gives us a command that we call the Great Commission. He says, “I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth. Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”

This is not only a command for the disciples. This is not only a command for pastors and missionaries. This is not only a command for those with college degrees. If you claim to be a follower of Christ then this commission is for YOU! The time to go all out living for Jesus is now. Don’t get so caught up in preparing for the future that you forget that you should be following Him right now. Be in the Word, spend time with the Lord in prayer, love and serve others, and make disciples whether you’re 8, 18, 28, or 88. The time is now!

College is Your Time

College is the time to explore yourself. Its the time to have experiences that you will never forget. This time is about you. After these four years, you’re going to have to be in the real world. Don’t worry about responsibility and be free.

This is a general idea of college for our culture. We see it depicted in entertainment as a period of life with loose morals and risky decisions all while obtaining a degree to use later on in life. And often times, that is how we view college. Simply put, we think college is our time. No more parents to tell us what to do. No more curfew. No one looking over our shoulder. There’s freedom for us to make our own choices, and unfortunately, we tend to think that they don’t come with consequences. Many students get to their senior year and have their lack of responsibility catch up with them. For some of us, it will be years down the road that our decisions now will impact us. But I can promise you one thing: your decisions now affect your future.

Exploration is Your Preparation

Those first statements about college are not a bad mindset to have toward college. Honestly, we need to have this mindset, but it needs to be paired with an eternal perspective as well. So yes, college is a time that you are given limited responsibilities and a whole lot of free time, but why? Well lets take a look at Ecclesiastes 3:1-2 which says, “For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven…a time to plant, and a time to pluck what is planted.” God is the creator of all things, and he is the one who designed our college years to give us more free time than we’ll ever have. And he has given us this season to plant in expectation of the future. Now when we see the time he has given us through this lens, we see we should be using it to prepare for the future. Just as a farmer plants an apple seed and an apple tree grows, the habits we form now are the seeds that will soon grow into a tree later in our life. But whatever we plant now, will come to harvest in the future. So the question we have to ask is what are the seeds I’m planting that will soon shape the fruit of my life in the future? Here are a few areas I think God wants us to prepare ourselves for now, so we will be well equipped to be used by him in the future.

Our Relationship with God

Sadly, this area of life is one of the first things to go when people get to campus. We tend to get this mindset of “I’ll go back to God after my college years. This is my time.” My question is how are you just going to jump right back into that relationship? Relationships with other people are hard enough in and of themselves, but I never take a four year break from a friend and then pick right back up where we left off. If you stop hanging out with someone and start hanging out with other people, you’re going to change. The same goes for your relationship with God. If you are not hanging out with God regularly, you are not going to be like Him. And when you finally do run back him again like a long lost friend, your not going to have anything in common except “the good ole days,” and who knows if you will see them as that.

The truth about college is that it is the crossroads of your relationship with God. You’re finally on your own, and you no longer live off of your family’s spirituality. God puts you through the fire, and you truly see whether your faith is true or not. One way to prepare and pursue God with your whole heart is found in John 15 where Jesus says, “Abide in me, and I in you.” The word abide translates to “remain, stay, wait for, keep on.” This shows us that to lay the foundation for our future relationship with God means we must be pursuing a relationship with God now. Not just a casual say hey every now and then relationship, but instead, a relationship that dictates all our other relationships. For many of us, we envision our family in the future, and we want it to be a beautiful, Jesus-loving family. But that starts with us being a Jesus-pursuing college student right now. Even more than that, God wants us to create a habit of abiding in Him. He wants us to start recklessly pursuing Christ in our college years, so we can live a full life to Him.

Our Relationship with Our Future Spouse

A misconception that comes along with your college years is that you will go on many dates, meet your future husband or wife, and be married as soon as you graduate. But that’s the exception. It’s not wrong. It just is not how it normally goes. God did not give us this time to find a spouse or for us to be single. He gave it to us so we can be satisfied and content in Him. We must understand this before we can be ready to pursue a relationship with another person. Truly, the key to preparing yourself to be in a relationship with someone else is to pursue God and your relationship with Him. If not, you are going to enter into a relationship with another person and look to them to find your contentment and joy which they cannot fulfill. As Paul Tripp says, “The cross of Jesus Christ is the epicenter of hope in every relationship.” As God begins to show you that you are ready for a relationship, keep your future spouse in mind. Just because you are in a relationship with someone, doesn’t mean you are going to marry them. So don’t give away what God wants you to save for marriage. This isn’t just sexually. Think emotionally and spiritually.

Our Calling

As you are spending time with God, He is going to reveal to you a passion that you can not escape. Its what you day dream about. Its what you read about. It consumes you. This is your calling. Maybe it will be your full-time career, or what your full-time career helps support, but whatever it is God has wired you specifically for this calling. As Romans 11:29 says, “God’s gifts and his call are irrevocable.” Now this is talking about God’s call of salvation, but I believe with that is a specific calling for each of us. And that goes hand in hand in the gifts God has given you. Paul writes anxiously to the Corinthians, “Now concerning spiritual gifts, brothers, I do not want you to be uniformed.” What Paul is saying here is that God has given each and every one of us a unique desires and skills to be used by Him, and there is not a better time than our college years to figure out what they are and develop them. Some of us know exactly what God has called us to, and if you do, find every way possible to learn and get involved with whatever that it is. No matter what our calling is, one way we can prepare is by doing our best in our classes. This will teach us discipline, and how to motivate ourselves in burdensome situations. For some of us, we have no clue what God wants us to do with our life. The best way to prepare for the unknown is allow ourself to become well rounded. We need to try different things. Put ourself in new environments. Stretch ourselves. God does not use the qualified. He qualifies who He uses. So put yourself in any and every situation to be used by God.

Top 3 Regrets of College

The other day a random text appeared on my phone.

What are your top three regrets of college?

A friend wanted to know. He never told me why, and honestly, I never responded. But I’ve been thinking about that question ever since.

I loved college. I miss it in fact. The freedom, the learning, the friends, the campus, the adventure…so many memories I cherish, but I certainly have a number of regrets.

As I consider those days and that question, I’ve narrowed down my mistakes to three main categories.

Too Serious
I worried about the stupidest stuff. I had a part time job. I fretted over classes and grades. And I went to fewer games and activities because of these concerns. But college is a time to explore and dream, a time to have adventures. Life after college gets serious all too quickly. You will have a lifetime to be serious! Life will get heavier. But college is a greenhouse of growth and opportunity. It is a chance to travel and test yourself, to laugh and develop deep friendships. Don’t miss that opportunity.

Too Distracted
This may sound like a contradiction to what I just said, but I mean to highlight a slightly different regret. So, while on the one hand I was too serious about the wrong things, on the other hand, I wasn’t serious enough about the right things. I wish I hadn’t stressed about grades, but focused on learning. I wish I hadn’t stressed about money and work shifts, but focused on being a good worker, a person of character. I wish I had taken the extra time I had in college (and you really do have extra time in college…you just don’t realize it until later) to develop myself more and prepare myself spiritually, mentally, vocationally, and even physically for the next phase of life.

Too Romantic
I worried about romance way too much. I was always thinking about “the one.” I was always searching, wondering, and worrying about finding someone. I would love to go back to my college self, grab me by the shoulders, and shout, “Relax! Enjoy this season of life!” I had so many good friends, so many wonderful influences. Why did I have to muck it up with the constant concern about dating? Just enjoy groups! Seriously. Enjoy friends! Enjoy singleness. Or, if you’re dating, don’t stress about the future. At just the right time, God will bring along the right person, and you will know it. Don’t burden every day from here to there with that worry. Trust God with your future.

Of course, God is so gracious; he even worked through my mistakes and regrets. He orchestrated my steps when I was distracted and lost. I hope you will experience college without regrets, but if you stumble, and you probably will, know he graciously guides those who seek him, regrets and all.

Don’t Waste Your Summer

SummerFinals just ended. Friends are hanging out by the pool. Beach trips are being planned. Pale bodies are being burnt by the sun. Its summertime.
 
Summer as a college student is a unique time in our lives. It is full of fun, relaxation, spontaneous nights, and many great memories. But unfortunately, going right along side all of this are missed opportunities. We seem to have engrained in our minds that summer time is our time. We see it as break from not just school but everything, and a lot of times we tend to take a hiatus from our relationship with God as well. During this time we see our church attendance as unnecessary. We put off spending time with God until there’s nothing else to do. We take a step back from serving others and begin to look at our own desires. Everything gets placed behind our life.
 
Why does summer do this to us? Well, summer strips us of our daily routine and the habits that we have created during school and replaces it with unstructured free time. When we have no structure to our day, our apathetic and lazy habits make their way into our daily schedule. We spend our days playing countless hours of Xbox, watching entire seasons of Netflix, laying by the pool with no purpose, and filling our time with no productivity. Now, none of these things are bad in and of themselves, but what they reveal is our apathetic hearts. The devil not only tempts us into acts of sin but also tempts us to be idle in pursuing righteousness. I am saying this because this a huge struggle for myself, and I am continually having to fight the urge to be unproductive and lazy, especially with my walk with God.
 
In order to combat laziness this summer, we need to do as Paul instructs the Ephesians to do when he tells them to, “look carefully then how you walk, not as the unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time” (Ephesians 5:15-16). I want to challenge you to “look carefully how you walk” this summer. If we never take a step back and assess our lives, we will never see where we can improve. So throughout this summer, we should be asking ourselves questions to examine how we are walking. Where is our heart? Are we making the best use of our time? Are we pursuing God diligently? Is our time being used for our enjoyment or the betterment of others in Christ? Simply, are we wasting our summer?
 
We often say we just don’t have enough time to spend time with God daily, but in reality, it is just a misplacement of our time. For example, think about your normal day by the pool. How often do we check Twitter or Facebook on our phones, and waste a large amount of time being unproductive? Instead of laying by the pool sleeping or sporadically checking our phones, what if we put our phones away and pulled out our Bible, a book, or a journal? Many times, it is not where we spend our time that leads to apathy, but instead, it is how we fill our free time wherever we are. 
 
Not only are we lax with our relationship with the Lord, but we also tend to put our dreams and passions behind the fun and games of summer. During the school year, we are doing all we can to prepare for what the future holds, but when it comes to summer, we feel like we need to take a break. But what if we used this free time as an opportunity to pursue our passions and dreams. God wants us to be proactive and prepare for what the future holds. As Abraham Lincoln once said, “Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.” When God gives us a summer full of free time, will we spend any of it sharpening our axe?
 
So what do you want to accomplish this summer?
 
Do you have a passion you’ve always wanted to pursue? Chase after it.
 
Do you have a stack of books you’ve been wanting to read? Write out a summer reading list and then carve out time to read them.
 
Is there a ministry you have been wanting to be a part of? Go and begin to serve along side them.
 
Do you have ideas swirling around your head? Go buy a journal and make a goal to fill it cover to cover by the end of the summer.
 
In all of these things, if we don’t set goals and plan our time to accomplish them, we will fall into the easiest choice, and that is to do nothing. We have to set standards and goals for ourselves. Maybe you give yourself a goal to read through the entire New Testament. Maybe you challenge yourself to finish a certain amount of books. Maybe you take a month long break from social media to free up your time to spend doing things you really care about. Each of our goals will look different, but no matter what they are we have to fight to accomplish them because our innate desire will always be to take the easier road of apathy.
 
Summer is a break from many things, but not a time to take a break from God. Pursue Him and the passions He has given you. You will not regret it.

Patience is a Process

The Dark Room
We all have a specific calling for our life. Some of us know what that is already, and others of us are struggling to find out what that calling is. Either way we both have an idea of where we want to end up in life. For some of us, we want to be the next great doctor or nurse who uses their medical expertise to provide health care to impoverished people across the world. While there are others who desire to use their artistic talent to change the world through media and music. Some, like myself, feel called to preach and teach God’s word and build up the church. All of these careers and passions are different, but they also have one thing in common: it takes time to get where we want to be. As college students, we are at the very beginning of our professional careers and have limited experience under our belt. Our resume is full of overstated job responsibilities in order to fluff up our application because simply, we don’t have much to put on there. But in line with our culture, we don’t want to have to wait to get our dream job, we want it now. We want to have set up our own medical mission clinic, be the president of our own firm, or be in the role of lead pastor at a large church. But unfortunately, that’s not how life works.

Our generation has been raised to have an “entitled” mindset. What I mean by this, as Kevin DeYoung puts it, is, “We expect people to affirm us for everything, criticize us for nothing, and pay us for anything we do.” We were raised during the time when parenting’s buzzword was “self-esteem.” Showing children unconditional love and the idea of being valued simply because “you are you” reigned in schools and homes. Children were constantly praised while criticized for very little. At the end of basketball games, everyone received an award, and no one lost. Teachers curved grades to make a “C” the new “F” (Aspen Education). Growing up was less about learning (growth?), and became more about feeling good about yourself. This has lead a common thinking of our generation to expect things handed to us without working for them (this is not true for everyone, but an overall generalization). So when we hear verses such as Jeremiah 29:11, which says, “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope,” we want God to perfectly lead us to arrive at the end of His plan instead of having to walk through it ourselves.

The Dark Room
Christine Caine gives great insight in her Passion 2014 talk when she confirms this idea by saying we are a “snap and upload” generation. We can take a picture in the matter of seconds and have it uploaded for others to see just as fast. She then points out how we are foreign to the idea of a dark room, which is where film used to be developed. When film was developed, it was a process that took many hours, sometimes even days. Not only does it take time, but it happens in the dark. This is because the light would destroy the image that is on the film. For us, the dark room is the days of waiting, while the light is the arrival at the fulfillment of God’s plan that would destroy us because we would not be prepared to walk in it. We want God’s plan now, instead of wanting to wait on God’s timing to make us the man or woman prepared to handle the responsibilities He has for us.

Godly Patience

So what does it look like to have Godly patience in the dark room? Well, let’s take a look at the life of David. Here is a “man after God’s own heart.” A man who wrote many of the Psalms. And a man God chose to be king of His people. But what we can very easily overlook is David’s process of coming to the throne. In 1 Samuel 16, Samuel walks into the house of Jesse, and God anoints David to be the king of Israel at the age of 17. For some of us, this is around the same age when God revealed our calling to us. But here’s the key to the story. It took David 20 years to finally come to the throne. David was anointed at the age of 17, but was not appointed until he was 37. During the years in between, he had experiences that ranged from being loved by Saul, the king, and living in his palace all the way to being pursued by Saul and was in fear of losing his life. He went through trials and tribulations which lead to many of the sorrowful Psalms we read today. But in the end, God placed him on the throne with a life full of experiences that taught him to fear the Lord and lead a nation.

For many of us, we don’t want to have to go through the process. We just want to arrive at the end destination. Even more, we think it is unfair that we have to wait. We feel God is being slow to fulfill His plan in our life. But hears a Biblical truth that combats that thinking: “The Lord isn’t really being slow about His promise, as some people think. No, He is being patient for your sake. He does not want anyone to be destroyed, but wants everyone to repent.” (2 Peter 3:9). We may think we know what we want, but God knows what we need. If our life went according to our plan and our timing, we would be placed in a position that would destroy us. We would not have the experience and ability to fulfill our role. In David’s circumstance, the throne would have destroyed him, or even more, he would have lead Israel to destruction. So the definition of patience states, “the capacity to accept or tolerate delay, trouble, or suffering without getting angry or upset.” I think to understand God’s definition we have to add to that James 1:4 which says, “And let patience have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” The goal of our patience is to make us more and more like Christ which enables God to use us most effectively for His work.

Progress in the Midst of Waiting

So God’s plan is a process. We never get to the end goal without taking steps that prepare us along the way. Some of those steps are going to end in failure, but they will teach us. Something to remember in this is that “progress is progress, no matter how small. Sometimes progress is your efforts, not your results.” So as you are looking towards your calling, don’t see the process as something you are just getting through. It is God’s plan for you. The process is just as much your calling as is the end. So take the smaller jobs. Take the internships where you are just simply observing. You are not high up in management or calling the shots, but you are learning. You are going to learn what works, and what does not work which can be painful. But as C.S. Lewis says, “Experience is a brutal teacher, but you learn. My God, do you learn.” You will look back years from now and remember those tough jobs and thank God for what you learned through them. But no one wants to sit and wait and learn. We want to do and lead and teach. The same goes for athletes. No one wants to practice while everyone wants the spotlight. But without practice, there is no greatness on the field. During practice is where we teach our body muscle memory, so when we are in the heat of the game, we don’t think about what to do. It just happens. This is exactly what God is doing with us now. Don’t think of it as waiting. Think of it as God’s training. He’s preparing your heart with muscle memory to glorify Him and love Him. So let’s put in the effort, so we can give glory to God with our lives.

Holiness is the End Goal

So what’s the point of the dark room? It’s to produce a beautiful picture. Its the same with Godly patience. The goal of our waiting is to produce the beautiful image of Christ on our hearts. Slowly, the image will be made clearer and clearer, but it is through endurance in the faith. As 1 Thessalonians 4:3 says, “It is God’s will that you should be holy.” This means that no matter if you are in the beginning stages of the process, or the end, there is a purpose for it all: to pursue God and glorify Him. So no matter where you are, your pursuit of the Lord should be constant.

Our Need for God’s Word (Death of Me)

Death of Me

Do you ever feel you don’t have the time in the day to spend time with God? Or that you have nothing left at the end of the day? We live in a fast-paced, hectic world. It seems like everyone around us is going a mile a minute, and a very common response to the question of how are you doing is: “I’ve been extremely busy.” It almost seems like we are working ourselves to death. In college, we are going from activity to activity, and when we finally make it to the end of the day, it feels like we survived a whirlwind. As college students, we have the most free time we’ll ever have, but we also tend to fill every second of it and in turn, have no down time. This leads us to spend time always surrounded by other people, but we seem to neglect finding time to spend with God, alone. A lot of times we tell ourselves we will spend time with Him later in the day, but it never happens. We get in a habit of trying to grow our faith from quotes and Bible verses from Twitter instead of going to God’s entire word where the psalmist says we will grow “like a tree planted by streams of water.” Why do we think we can have a relationship with God outside from spending time in His Word? If we say we are Christians, the one constant in our daily schedule should be time with God through His Word and prayer.

I became convicted of my apathy toward spending time with God while listening to Andy Mineo’s song Death of Me. Andy is a Christian hip hop artist who God has given the gift to share honest, transparent truth in the form of great hip hop music. He will blow your mind with his skill while rocking your heart with truth. In this song, he is describing how his life has changed over the past couple years. He is now on the road almost full time with a growing career, and what does he choose to rap about: how he fears he is losing himself in the midst of it all, especially his relationship with God. So maybe you feel you’re losing yourself in the midst of a crazy busy lifestyle. If you are, I wanted to elaborate on what I learned from Andy’s story and share some ways we can change this pattern in our lives.

Jesus Retreated

“Jesus retreated to speak with his Father
I know that I need it
My career been growing
But tell me where I’m going if my time with God is depleted”

This is where we must start whenever we examine our life: looking to the example of Jesus. During Jesus’ ministry, people were always wanting to spend time with him. Many times in scripture, we see people following Jesus everywhere he went. Whether it was asking him to heal them or simply to hear him talk, wherever Jesus went, there was a crowd. There was not much time for Jesus to casually slip away to a coffee shop and spend time with his Father. So what did he do? In Mark 1:35 it says, “And rising very early in the morning, while it was still dark, he departed and went out to a desolate place, and there he prayed.” It also says in Luke 6:12 that, “Jesus went out to a mountainside to pray, and spent the night praying to God.” Simply put, Jesus left his daily routine, the crowds, and his schedule to spend time with God. Not just for short periods, but some times, the whole night.

No matter how busy we are, we probably don’t have the crowd surrounding us that Jesus did, but we do have the same need that he had: a need to commune with God. For us this will look different than Jesus, but the concept is the same. We might not have crowds following us, but we might have friends and roommates we are always with. This is how it is for me, and for the longest time, I thought it would be weird it I told my friends I couldn’t hang out for an hour because I needed to get in the Word. But once I did it, I realized how understanding they were, and what great conversations it can start. If we see another brother or sister spending time with God, it will motivate us to withdraw from the business of the world to grow our relationship with God.

Do We Talk More about God or with God?

“God, I’m sorry, I mean it
All I want to do is walk with you but
My priorities wrong,
I talk about you more than I talk with you”

This line hit me real hard. I tend to have many “God-centered” conversations throughout the day and even talk about God in the midst of ministry, but although God desires this of us, he desires much more for us to spend time with him personally. When we talk about God more than spending time with him, it is like a husband talking about how much he loves his wife but never making time to spend with her. God desires us to share what we learn from him, and for us to share our faith with others. But if we talk about God without spending time with him, there is no substance behind our words. Zechariah 8:16 says for us to, “speak the truth to one another,” but how will we know the truth if we never read it for ourselves? God desires for us to live off of his words, and not just our own opinions, or the opinions of others.

One trend as college students is for us to talk about opinions of famous pastors or authors like John Piper, Matt Chandler, or C.S. Lewis more than actually talking with God ourselves and seeing what God has to say about himself (this is from personal experience). A lot of times when talking about our faith we use them as evidence why we believe a certain truth, but we need to know and discover these truths for ourselves. Instead of drawing from someone else’s experience, we need to spend time with God and tell others what he has been teaching us. When we spend time with God, our conversations with others will be backed up with personal experiences.

Its not Complicated, Just Costly

“One of my mentors taught me
Whenever things get foggy
If you wanna grow in God
It’s not complicated,
It just costly”

The solution to our neglect of time with God is very simple: make the time. This is not the answer many people want to hear. Its the same answer as working out or training yourself for anything, you have to make sacrifices and put in the hard work. So how do we do this? We do as Jesus did. We wake up earlier in the morning and start our day in his Word. We choose time with God over time with friends. Instead of watching TV, we open our Bibles. So many times, when “things gets foggy,” we turn to friends, movies, and all sorts of other things while God tells us in Psalm 19:7-8 that “the law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul…the precepts of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart, the commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes.” We also are very good at scheduling to make time for God, but not following through. A.W. Tozer says to this, “If you want to be holy then you must give time to God and not just intend to.”

The Christian life is a fight, and we must daily train ourselves to be prepared. 2 Timothy 3:16 says, “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work.” Notice the reasoning behind scripture is to train us in righteousness. God’s desire for us when we read scripture is to be disciplined and molded into being like him.

So let us “look carefully then how we walk…making the best use of our time” (Ephesians 5:15-16).

Why Worry

Why Worry?
“Worry implies that we don’t quite trust God is big enough, powerful enough, or loving enough to take care of what’s happening in our lives.”

This quote from Francis Chan in his book Crazy Love really put worrying into perspective for me. It made me think back to all of the nights I had lost sleep worrying about things that were out of my control. There were so many nights that I forgot that God is big enough, powerful enough, and loving enough to take care of whatʼs happening in my life.

I would mostly worry about the plan for my life. While in high school, I had everything in my life completely planned out, from where Iʼd spend my four years of college and the degree Iʼd receive to what Iʼd be doing with my degree. I had everything mapped out, and I couldnʼt imagine a better plan than my own. I couldnʼt imagine a situation where my plan didnʼt work out, and this caused a lot of worry about the future.

During my first year of college it became evident very quickly that a lot of my plans werenʼt going to work out. This caused even more worry and anger towards God because I simply did not trust that he was big enough, powerful enough, or loving enough to take care of what was happening in my life. I didnʼt trust Him, and I didnʼt trust the plan that he had for me.

Thinking about the future causes anxiety and worry in all of us. It’s unknown and out of our control, and both of these things terrify us. The definition of worry says, “allow one’s mind to dwell on difficulties or troubles.” So here’s the problem with worry: we are allowing our minds to dwell on the wrong thing. Colossians 3:2 tells us to “set our minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.” When we set our minds on eternity, it shifts our view to seeing God as who He truly is in our lives, and that is sovereign and in control. But instead, we look at the troubles and uncertainty that lay ahead which leads us to look to ourselves as sovereign and in control of our lives. Elisabeth Eliot said, “Worry is the antithesis of trust. You simply cannot do both. They are mutually exclusive.” As long as we are worried about what the future holds, we will never let God hold our future. The key to stop worrying is to start trusting in a God that is bigger and greater than yourself.

Take a second and look back at how many things you have worried over in your life and tried to plan out. Now think about how many of those went exactly according to the plan you had in your mind. When I think back, there are none. No matter how hard I try to plan, it always plays out differently. So as we are in college, we are constantly thinking about our future plans and jobs. Some of us have in our mind the perfect 5 year plan and know where we want too. Others don’t even know what classes they are taking next semester, let alone where they will be in two months. But in both these situations, we will look back a year from now and retrace the steps God has lead us to take. These steps will be ones you would have never taken on your own, but God knew where He wanted you to be. You might have a vague idea of what you want to do with your life, but God knows every detail of how He will use you. We are trying to make decisions on our own while we can’t see the bigger picture. We see our life up close like viewing a movie of 1 or 2 pixels while God is viewing the beautiful, high definition picture of all 1080 pixels. Matthew 6:27 asks, “Can all your worries add a single moment to your life?” No! If anything, our worry takes away precious moments from our life. So let us give up our worry to God and allow Him to replace it with trust in His plans.

Iʼm now finishing up my junior year of college, and as I look back over the last three years, I can confidently tell you the most important lesson that I have learned while in college. It wasnʼt a lesson from a math class, or even a Bible class, even though those lessons are important. The most important lesson that I learned is that Godʼs plan for my life is far greater than my own. If you had asked me as an 18 year old what Iʼd be doing at 21, I never would have guessed it would be this. But the truth is, God knew exactly where I would at 18, 21, and every year after that in the midst of my worrying.

So we have to ask ourselves if we trust that God is big enough, powerful enough, and loving enough to take care of whatʼs happening in our life? Do we trust that He has a plan for our life? I can promise you He is all of those things, and I can promise you that His plan is greater than yours. So why worry? God has a great plan for you!