Jesus’s Familiar Love in an Unfamiliar Place

A few weeks ago, I wrote a post about making Christian friendships and needing Christ in college. Since then, I feel like I’ve grown and learned a lot. I’ve dabbled in a lot of the Christian clubs around my campus and tried to talk to the people there. I’ve tried my hardest to strike up conversations with people I’ve never met and try and connect with them in some way. I’ve gone to events on my own and put myself out there unlike I ever did in high school.

These past three weeks have been a whole lot of unfamiliarity. That’s the best way I can describe it. The dramatic change from high school to college is enough to make your head spin. It’s all been incredibly exciting and fun, but at the same time, there’s so much unfamiliarity.

I think when I was in high school, church was just so familiar to me. It was the same thing I’d done for years. It was the same people, the same pastor, the same situations. Don’t get me wrong – I love my church and my pastor and its people. But it became a situation where my church life was just a part of my routine, not a part of me.

Since coming to college, the unfamiliar situations – people I don’t know, places I don’t know, situations I’ve never been in before – have made me crave familiarity. I didn’t know that until I stepped into my campus’s Lutheran church. Immediately I felt comfort, comfort that I now know came from Christ. Immediately I felt like I was home, I was safe. Immediately I knew that I loved this – because it was familiar.

The service was that much more enjoyable. The hymns washed over me with Christ’s love for me. I was reminded of the real reason I’m on this earth – to glorify God, and not to just go to college. I received Christ’s body and blood, and I heard the Word of God. Afterwards I had fellowship with my fellow Christians, and it was a peaceful and beautiful morning.

So why did I enjoy church so much? Because church is my home. I had never been to this church before, but I immediately felt like I belonged, like these people had known me my whole life. There’s something that comes along with being in a church service that just takes you back to reality. Jesus loves me, and He cares for me, and He’s going to be there for me: today, tomorrow, for the next four years, and for the rest of my life.

That was what I needed among this unfamiliarity. To feel Jesus’s love take over my heart. That is what I needed and what I will always need for the rest of my life. And there’s no better place to find it than in the place you find Jesus – His church.

I know this is mainly a blog for teenagers, so I want to emphasize on the fact that this doesn’t necessarily have to do with college. For those of you who are still going to your same old familiar church – enjoy it! Enjoy the familiarity. Enjoy the people and the pastor and being home. But know that there will always be a church family out there for you, wherever God takes you. There will always be a home for you while you are on this earth. And let us never forget the home that God has prepared for us for eternity – His kingdom in heaven. Let us focus our eyes and hearts on heaven and what joy is yet to come.

Making Christian Friendships

I’ve only been at college for three days and I already know that I’m going to need God’s help more than ever.

Of course, there’s the struggles of defeating temptations, getting through classes, getting along with people, but there’s also problems closer to our heart…finding a group of friends who support you and your beliefs, and finding a place where you belong.

I’ve found that’s much harder than finding my way around campus.

Granted, it’s only my third day, but something tells me that I’m going to find my closest friends in Christ. I’ve been praying fervently for God to bring me some close friends that I can talk to. Maybe He will provide me with some, maybe not.

I was a little discouraged when I went to a seminar on Keeping Your Faith in College. Out of a campus of over 40,000 people, there were seven people in that class. I looked around at my fellow Christians, and what did I see? People who were just as concerned about making friends as I was. And I wish I could reach out to people, and just speak my mind, but something holds me back every time. I think that they’ve got friends, I’m the odd man out. They’re just here to see what this is all about. They’re not really as concerned as I am.

I considered going to a Christian college, but I wanted to have the opportunities that my university has to offer in my career field. It’s certainly not the right or wrong choice for everyone. I hope I can find my place on this campus, one where I feel loved and accepted through faith in Christ.

For now, I ask humbly that you pray for me, as a large campus can make you feel so very alone at times, and I’m experiencing that already. Pray that I will make connections with my fellow Christians that will bring me lasting friendships.

College? What’s a Christian To Do?

I’m leaving for college in a few days, and all I can think is that I need God in my life more than ever. 

College brings lots of temptations. Even if you go to a Christian college, the temptations are there. Underage drinking, premarital sex, ignoring your studies and family and responsibilities, changing who you are as a person to conform to the rest of the world, and much, much more. 

So what’s a Christian to do? 

Certainly not avoid college. If college is the right path for you, a path that you’ve discussed with God, then by all means you should pursue your higher education. Temptations shouldn’t scare you away, because with a strong faith, you don’t have to submit to temptation. There are temptations everywhere in life. We live in a sinful, fallen world, where temptation lurks around every corner. College just seems to be full of temptation.

So if you’re thinking about college, heading to college for the first time, or going back to college, here are some guidelines for staying close to God that hopefully we both will be able to implement into our lives.

1. Keep your relationship with God in tact. Pray that He will help you to be strong and faithful in college, and seek friendships and relationships with other children of Christ. Before you even leave, you should be heading into college confident that God can help you in any and every situation, whether it be making friends, having a social life, surviving your classes, and avoiding falling into sin.

2. Remember prayer. Prayer is the key between you and God. Without it, your relationship will collapse. Don’t be afraid to let God know how you feel about something. He’s your counselor, 24/7, ready and willing and able to help with any situation. He will help you in the happiest and the darkest of times. Seek Him in every situation and you will find comfort in everything you do. 

3. Get involved. See what your campus has to offer as far as Christian youth groups, volunteer organizations, churches, clubs, and more. Being around other Christian people will give you a home away from home and a group of people to guide you through these next four years.

4. Have fellowship. Don’t be afraid to speak to other Christian people. Many of them will give you insight on the fact that though many people have very different walks of life, we all worship one God. 

5. Make time to read your Bible. Just like you would at home, you should set apart a time of your day where you are focused and alert to read your Bible. The Bible is not only the guide to your daily life but contains the words of your salvation.

6. Remember what comes after college. It can be easy to get caught up in the things of your daily life. But you should remind yourself daily that college is not the end of the world! Life goes on after this, and life goes on after death. All who believe in Jesus Christ will have eternity with Him forever, and that’s something we should never, ever forget.

Your Prayer Life

“The LORD is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth.”
-Psalm 145:18
 
Everyone is different. Likewise, Christians all have a relationship with one God, but our relationships all differ. God has a unique, special connection with all of us. He knows and cares about each individual’s lives, and at the same time, He cares about ours.
 
How do we keep this connection with God strong? Through prayer. Prayer is the key between us and God. We can tell him anything, we can say what’s on our minds, what’s bothering us, we can pray for our future endeavors and for other people and the world. Prayer is powerful, and I’ve seen it work in my life in numerous ways.
 
Sometimes, though, I’ve had periods of my life where I’ve simply ignored prayer. I don’t pray, and therefore, I don’t even think about God being the focus of my life. When I don’t pray, my relationship with God suffers, because prayer is the key between us and God. I’ve tried to remember to pray, to pray every night before I go to sleep, and sometimes it just doesn’t work.
 
What I think some people don’t realize is that prayer is absolutely amazing. Just the fact that we can pray to the Almighty God that created this entire universe is astounding. We don’t have to pray to anyone else, we’re talking straight to Him. And He answers, with His comfort, care, love, healing, and salvation. Prayer isn’t just a duty, it’s a part of your daily walk with God.
 
Recently, I’ve found a way to keep prayer more of a focus in my life, and to most of all, cherish it. I’ve started a prayer journal. Previously when I thought or spoke my prayers, I would get off track and start thinking about other things, and soon I would pop back into reality and remember that I was praying. To solve this, I started a prayer journal, and it’s made my prayer life so much better. I concentrate more on what I’m asking God, I find myself writing more and more, just talking to God, letting Him know how I feel about certain things.
 
A prayer journal might not work for everyone. I’m more of a writing and reading person, and I retain more information when I take notes and read passages. This carries over to my prayer life. Another thing is that I get to look back on what I’ve prayed and see how I’ve changed and how my prayers were answers.
 
Prayer doesn’t have to be a task. It’s a gift from God. It should be cherished and it is vital to your relationship with God. Don’t ignore prayer, or else you will find out that you ignore God in your daily life.
 
PRAY: Dear Heavenly Father, I am so thankful for the ability that I have to pray to you. Prayer is a powerful thing, as Your name is powerful. I pray that you will help me to remember you always and keep you as the sole focus of my life. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
 
 

 

When You Think You Can’t Do What You’re Doing

There are way too many instances in my life when I doubt myself. Leaving for college in a couple of weeks, sometimes I just sit down and think, “Who are you kidding? This is all just an act. You can’t really go to college and take on all these responsibilities. What were you thinking?”

In times like this, I turn to God and begin to doubt what path He has set me on. And after thinking about it a bit, I know that things have worked out way too perfectly and God has blessed me too much for this to be the wrong path. God wants me to go where I’m going, and He’s set me up with my collective life experiences to get on my way.

A lot of tasks in my life take a lot more courage than you would think. It’s not that what I’m doing is extremely daunting, it’s that sometimes I’m extremely not self-assured in myself. Things like confronting people, making plans, saying how I feel, and standing up to someone take a lot of courage since I am a generally shy person. Sometimes I feel like no one understands why I get so worked up and anxious of these things, but then I remember that God understands perfectly. He made me this way, so surely He made me this way for a reason. He’s making me stronger every day, even if it means making me stronger in what would appear to be insignificant things.

And there are times when you don’t know what you’re doing, so you have to ask for help, whether it be from God or from someone in your life to guide you on your way. This can be especially true for teenagers. Sometimes I think teenagers take the wrong route, thinking they can figure out everything for themselves, or they’re too scared to ask in fear that they will look “stupid.” Let me tell you from experience – asking questions is a sign of strength. Whether you’re asking a teacher, a parent, a friend, and especially God, asking for help shows that you care and you want to succeed. It doesn’t mean you’re stupid or more incapable than anyone else. It means you know that without God’s guidance, you would most surely fail (Matthew 7:7).

So the next time you don’t think you can do the task set ahead of you, remember this. God planned your life. He does everything to help you grow stronger. He puts you in sticky situations sometimes but will always see you through. When you think you can’t do what you’re doing, remember that God will be with you no matter what you do.

 

 

Views of God’s Creation

I have had a summer in which I have been blessed to have many fantastic views.

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As humans, we want to see beauty in nature whether we realize it or not. Experiencing God’s creation can make us into totally different people. We can put down the cell phones and cameras and just admire. Every time I see a new part of God’s creation, I am more thoroughly amazed by Him. And think of all the beauty that is jam-packed in the small parts of the United States I have seen; I’ve never travelled out of the country. It makes me admire God’s hand in my life, and excited for all the views He has yet to show me.

The Parable of the Lost Son

The Parable of the Lost Son (Luke 15:11-32) portrays God’s forgiveness in a way that everyone should read. The parable follows a son who, after receiving a share of property from his father, wandered off spent everything, and soon found himself in a life of despair. After realizing what mistake he had made (vs. 17-19), he decided to return to his father to work as a slave for him, and not a son, since it would be better than his situation now.

If you were in the son’s situation, you would expect your father to maybe not even accept you as a son anymore. After all, you ran away from your father with what he gave you and lived a careless life. You didn’t return to your father. And now, seeing how messed up your life has become, you are returning to him with nothing. You would expect your father to be disappointed with you and maybe even disown you.

But that’s not what happens. The father accepts his son back with open arms, kissing him and hugging him (vs. 20). The son then says that he is sorry for all that he has done wrong against his father (vs 21). Again, you would expect your father to merely accept your apology and go on with life. But that’s not what this father does. He asks for the best robe, and a ring and sandals, and a fattened calf, all to give to his son. He wants to celebrate that his lost son has returned! He says, “For this son of mine was dead and is alive again, he was lost and is found.” And they celebrated (vs. 22-24).

Next, the other older son who had stayed with his father and worked hard for him all of his life complains. Why does this son get a fattened calf when he did nothing and I did everything (vs 28-30). But the father simply explains: “We had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.”

This parable shows us the love of God. In this parable, the father is God and the lost son is us. We have sinned against God so many times. We have run away from Him, taken his gifts wrongly and made our lives a life of despair. We have refused to acknowledge the gifts He has given us.

But look what happens when we return to God. He accepts us back! He blesses us with many things, and his entire kingdom celebrates! God celebrates when you return to Him, ready to love Him. And most importantly, he forgives you, completely and wholly, and it is as if it had never happened.

And just why does He forgive you? Because He loves you, more than words can describe, and because He sent His only Son, Jesus Christ, to die on the cross for your sins and make you clean forever (Isaiah 1:18).

And just like the older son, there will be people who will try to come to God with their good works. They will say, look, I am a good person, I’ve done good things, won’t you accept me to? But that is not how we are saved. Ephesians 2:8 says: “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith–and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God.” You did nothing to receive your salvation. It’s only through being saved through faith. And this is a gift from God! He didn’t have to do that at all. He could have sent us all to eternal death, but instead He accepts us in for eternal life. What great news we can all rejoice in.