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First Week at App

27 Aug

So today makes a week that I’ve been in Boone and at ASU.  Just thought I’d give a brief overview of my first week here.

Overall, it’s been a pretty good week.  I tend to adjust to new places well, which thankfully has been the case this week.  I think I pretty much know where everything is on campus now and where just about everything is in Boone.  That’s probably mostly due to the fact that the first four days here we had leaders that helped us get acquainted with the campus.  Also the first four days there were activities planned for us every day, like movies, a midnight pancake breakfast, and carnival night, which kept us busy most of the time.

Classes started on Tuesday.  Since then I have actually been less busy than I was the previous days.  I’ve only had one or two classes every day.  Next week will be different though because the labs for my three classes will start, so I’ll have three classes most days.  This semester I’m taking biology, geology, and chemistry.  So far I’m really liking the first two… not so sure about the latter.  My chem prof is pretty harsh (and that’s definitely putting it in the nicest terms possible).  I think I’ll probably have to work much harder in the class for a good grade than in the others, but I’m not too worried about it.  Luckily I’ve taken a college level chem class before, so I feel like I’m pretty well prepared for the class.

Wednesday night I went to the first RUF (Reformed University Fellowship) meeting of the year.  I really enjoyed it, as I was expecting.  Tomorrow night my roommate and I are going to “One Night of Worship” at one of the local churches, sponsored by three campus ministries.  Sunday I will be going to church somewhere, although I’m not sure where yet.

Although I’ve had a good time this week, yesterday I really started missing some people.  Luckily I will be home around this time next week though, which means I will get to see all of the people I’ve been missing!  Yay for a 3 1/2 day weekend!

Lastly, I just want to ask you all to pray for me – namely, for my studies and for me spiritually, that I would believe the Gospel every day, and that I would be a good lover of Jesus and of people.  For at least the next two years of my life God has called me to be a college student, so I want to be the best student that I can be.  Also, I think of the missionary Jim Elliot who said, “Wherever you are, be all there.”  That’s how I feel about my time in Boone and at App – I want to be “all here.”  I want to genuinely love Boone and ASU – the place God has called me to – and all of the students here.  I do believe that we are all called to be missionaries, especially in the areas in which we live.

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Irresistibly Beautiful

15 Jun

For some reason, I’ve been in a very contemplative mood lately.  And I think.  A lot.  About a lot of things.

Lately I’ve been thinking about the past few years.  A week or so ago I was talking to a girl on Facebook — a girl who used to be my best friend.  We were best friends our freshman and sophomore year of high school.  We were inseparable.  Always together, and ALWAYS laughing.  As we were talking about all of our old inside jokes, I realized how much I missed those days. 

But, I also began to think… I am not at all the same person I was two and a half years ago — not even close.  Something pretty drastic happened to me at some point between the middle of my junior year and the middle of my senior year… Jesus became irresistibly beautiful to me.  And that changed everything.

Up until that point, I thought I was already a Christian.  I could tell you more about Christianity and its history and different denominations and their beliefs than any other teenager I knew.  I could write essays that shocked college instructors, and handle just about any criticisms that were thrown at me.  But, there was one major problem — I did not understand (or truly believe) the gospel.

It’s odd, looking back now, since Jesus has saved me, at the person I was just two or three years ago, and then looking at who I am today.  There are very few people, maybe one or two, who really knew me back then and who really know me now, but it’s pretty shocking to them how much I have changed.  I guess you’ll have that when God sovereignly claims you as his own.  To quote John Piper, “Nothing in me contributed to the fact that Jesus became irresistibly beautiful to me.”

God Has You Where He Wants You

22 Jan

“It may seem like it now, but college is not the end-all, be-all.  In fact, college is only the beginning of the rest of your life. Have faith that no matter which school you attend, you are a part of something much bigger.  God has you where he wants you.  God sent Jonah into Nineveh not just to share the prophetic Gospel with the ignorant but to grow Jonah and awaken his heart.”

I read that in a magazine earlier.  Thought it was pretty awesome.  And comforting, very comforting, considering within the next few months I will be deciding where I will go to school for the next two years (at least).

We Have Seen Both Sides

31 Dec

I read this quote earlier today:

“Something that the world simply cannot grasp is that we do have a vast understanding of this world — far richer and deeper than they can imagine.  Simply because we have seen both sides — we know evil and righteousness, darkness and light, good and bad.  They only know their one dark perspective — and they do not understand the light.  Thus, the gospel, its riches, and those who follow it are a ‘mystery’ to them.”

Tim Challies offers some thoughtful insight about the understanding and perspective of Christians and non-Christians:

I’ve known evil and now know good.  Through the Bible I am given God’s eyes to see evil as he sees it and to understand it as he understands it.  This gives me a whole new clarity.  But one who has never turned to Christ has known only evil.  [They] can see what is good but can understand it only through that lens of evil.  I know what it is to be lost in a way that [they] cannot know what it is to be saved.

Jesus in the Bible Belt

26 Dec

My status on my Facebook page recently was “I really hate living in the Bible Belt sometimes.”  I was surprised how many people commented on it either agreeing with me or asking me “what happened?”  I don’t remember anything in particular that was going on that day to make me say that, but it is something that I think to myself quite often.  So I was thinking yesterday, “Surely there are some good things about living in the Bible Belt… there is has to be…”  But, honestly, I couldn’t come up with much. 

In this video Matt Chandler, lead pastor of The Village Church in Highland Village, TX, talks about ministry in the Bible Belt and describes people as being “inoculated to Jesus.”  I couldn’t agree more. 

In the South, in the Bible Belt, 

“… the bulk of people have some understanding of who Jesus is… the bulk of people have enough of Jesus to feel like they don’t need him, or that they understand him enough.”

  

 

One thing that is frustrating to me about living in the Bible Belt is that everyone thinks and says they are a Christian.  People believe that because they grew up in church, or because their parents are Christians, or because they went to Vacation Bible School when they were a kid, or because they said a prayer once when they were at a Christian camp one summer, that they are a Christian.  

I came across the blog earlier today of a church in Winston-Salem.  The title of the post was “How ‘Getting Saved’ Can Lead You to Miss Jesus.” 

Yesterday, I preached from Acts 8.9-25 about the life of Simon Magus, who professed Christ, was baptized, joined the church, and then turned out to be a false-convert and a heretic. While we shouldn’t assume that anyone who isn’t involved in the life of a church belongs to Jesus, Simon proves to us that not everyone who talks about Jesus and belongs to a church knows him either. And this should make us stop and think. We need to ask where our hope and our trust are. This is especially important here in the South, the Bible belt, because everyone goes to church here. And there’s a lot of bad teaching about salvation in the churches many people go to. 

The typical approach to salvation here in the South is that you must “ask Jesus into your heart,” or “give your heart/life to Jesus,” or “enter into a personal relationship with Jesus,” or “make Jesus your personal Lord and Savior.” There are a few problems with this mindset. The first is that none of these phrases are to be found in the Bible. Scripture casts salvation in terms of repentance and faith. We trust in Christ and his work on behalf of sinners. Jesus makes us right before God (justification). At their best, these expressions are trying to get at this. But often they degenerate into something harmful. 

For example, Pastor Stephen was “saved” and got baptized around seven times during his childhood. He asked Jesus into his heart a lot. And at no point was his faith put in Christ. I’ve personally said the “sinner’s prayer” countless times. And it never worked. And the problem is that by expressing the matter in these terms, we turn the focus onto ourselves and on what we’re doing, rather than on Christ and what he has done. Our confidence is shifted to our act of prayer, or confession, or acceptance, or walking the aisle, or whatever other accoutrements may attend the “conversion experience.” And when that happens, there’s a very real possibility that we are trusting in ourselves and our own works rather than Jesus. 

Often times, people are pointed back to their conversion experience for assurance of salvation. But again, this is a misguided idea. Our assurance can’t come from something we’ve done. Maybe I “believed” in Jesus back then, but what about now? Only faith in the present tense is the instrument of receiving Christ and his benefits. And what if I “did it wrong?” What if I didn’t repent or believe enough or the right way? Instead, biblical assurance of salvation comes from the Holy Spirit leading us to recognize the promises of God to all who believe, and that we ourselves are included in these promises. Biblical assurance pushes us back to the cross and resurrection of Jesus and away from ourselves. 

I’m not saying that all people who “ask Jesus into their hearts,” or “get saved,” or say the sinner’s prayer haven’t been truly converted. But I am saying that many are not because they are trusting themselves rather than Christ. And I am saying that when we explain salvation this way, we confuse people about the nature of hope, and risk leading them to miss out on salvation even as they are “getting saved.” 

I think this is one of the reasons so many people in the Bible Belt sincerely believe they are Christians, when in fact many are not – because “there’s a lot of bad teaching about salvation in the churches many people go to” and because “we confuse people about the nature of hope, and risk leading them to miss out on salvation even as they are ‘getting saved.'” 

I honestly think I would rather live in a completely secular society than in a society where, as Matt Chandler said, “everybody feels like they already know the gospel, despite the fact that they don’t know the gospel.”

We Need to be Reminded of the Gospel

19 Nov

I came across a blog earlier that listed ten reasons why we need to be reminded of the gospel every day. I know all of them are true for me.

1. We quickly forget the gospel.
2. We doubt the power of the gospel to transform us.
3. We think of ourselves more highly than we ought.
4. We are easily distracted.
5. We need the gospel just as much today as we did yesterday.
6. We hope in the wrong things.
7. We are hard-hearted and stiff-necked.
8. We are suspicious of God’s intentions.
9. We are stingy.
10. We are full of idols.

The Gospel, Religion and Irreligion

12 Aug

Tim Keller explains the difference between the gospel, religion, and irreligion:

 

 

RELIGION: I obey-therefore I’m accepted.
THE GOSPEL: I’m accepted-therefore I obey.

RELIGION: Motivation is based on fear and insecurity.
THE GOSPEL: Motivation is based on grateful joy.

RELIGION: I obey God in order to get things from God.
THE GOSPEL: I obey God to get to God-to delight and resemble Him.

RELIGION: When circumstances in my life go wrong, I am angry at God or my self, since I believe, like Job’s friends that anyone who is good deserves a comfortable life.
THE GOSPEL: When circumstances in my life go wrong, I struggle but I know all my punishment fell on Jesus and that while he may allow this for my training, he will exercise his Fatherly love within my trial.

RELIGION: When I am criticized I am furious or devastated because it is critical that I think of myself as a ‘good person’. Threats to that self-image must be destroyed at all costs.
THE GOSPEL: When I am criticized I struggle, but it is not critical for me to think of myself as a ‘good person.’ My identity is not built on my record or my performance but on God’s love for me in Christ. I can take criticism.

RELIGION: My prayer life consists largely of petition and it only heats up when I am in a time of need. My main purpose in prayer is control of the environment.
THE GOSPEL: My prayer life consists of generous stretches of praise and adoration. My main purpose is fellowship with Him.

RELIGION: My self-view swings between two poles. If and when I am living up to my standards, I feel confident, but then I am prone to be proud and unsympathetic to failing people. If and when I am not living up to standards, I feel insecure and inadequate. I’m not confident. I feel like a failure.
THE GOSPEL: My self-view is not based on a view of my self as a moral achiever. In Christ I am “simul iustus et peccator”—simultaneously sinful and yet accepted in Christ. I am so bad he had to die for me and I am so loved he was glad to die for me. This leads me to deeper and deeper humility and confidence at the same time. Neither swaggering nor sniveling.

RELIGION: My identity and self-worth are based mainly on how hard I work. Or how moral I am, and so I must look down on those I perceive as lazy or immoral. I disdain and feel superior to ‘the other.’
THE GOSPEL: My identity and self-worth are centered on the one who died for His enemies, who was excluded from the city for me. I am saved by sheer grace. So I can’t look down on those who believe or practice something different from me. Only by grace I am what I am. I’ve no inner need to win arguments.

RELIGION: Since I look to my own pedigree or performance for my spiritual acceptability, my heart manufactures idols. It may be my talents, my moral record, my personal discipline, my social status, etc. I absolutely have to have them so they serve as my main hope, meaning, happiness, security, and significance, whatever I may say I believe about God.
THE GOSPEL: I have many good things in my life—family, work, spiritual disciplines, etc. But none of these good things are ultimate things to me. None of them are things I absolutely have to have, so there is a limit to how much anxiety, bitterness, and despondency they can inflict on me when they are threatened and lost.

Adapted from Tim Keller

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