For Incoming Freshmen

For those incoming freshmen out there who are worried about the year ahead, let me just tell you at first that I know exactly how you are feeling, and I’ve been there.

Whether you’re entering your freshman year of high school or of college, it’s a pretty scary time for you. You don’t know what to expect. You’re scared about making new friends and being alone. You’re scared about being yourself and being liked.

This upcoming year will go by so quickly. I guarantee you that you will make mistakes, you will have good and bad times, you will learn so much, and you will come out at the end of the year a stronger person.

It’s a whirlwind at first, especially when you’re entering college. So much is new. Your old routine is over and now you have to get used to a new one. There are so many challenges, new things, temptations. It’s going to be difficult, awkward, weird, confusing.

You’re going to get through it, with the help of God.

You’re going to mistakes, but I hope you won’t make the same mistakes I made. First and foremost, keeping close to God is key. If you have Him by your side to help you in every decision you make, things will go much more smoothly. (Hebrews 10:22)

Don’t fall into the trap of thinking “everyone else is doing it, so I should too.” It’s not true. Not everyone else is doing it, whatever it may be. There are other people like you. There are other people who feel the same way. You are not alone.

Step out of your comfort zone. Go talk to people. Find your friends, your Christian ones and your not Christian ones. Branch out. Learn about peoples’ experiences. Go to places alone, if you have to. Now’s the time to step out.

Cherish this time. It’s going to go by so quickly. You’re going to change as a person, no matter what, and hopefully you are changing to become stronger and more rooted in Christ. So don’t be afraid to go out there in your faith and live accordingly. Don’t be afraid to reach out to other people for help.

Most importantly, cling to God. In every decision, consult His guidance. He has an ultimate plan for you (Jeremiah 29:11) and you can rest assured that He is leading you down His path.

When Nothing Goes as Planned

Right now, nothing is going as planned.

It feels like I’m constantly messing everything up. It’s big things, it’s little things, but it feels like everything. I can’t seem to do anything right, and all that’s going wrong seems to be all because of me.

When this happens, I can’t help but feel helpless. No matter how hard you try, sometimes you are just going to mess things up. We’re human. We don’t do everything right. Even when we try and think we are doing what’s best, we still manage to fail.

And when I mess up and the world seems to turn against me, I often turn to my friends for advice. And that can be disappointing. You expect people to say one thing, and they say something else. They can be unhelpful or judgmental or they won’t understand you.

Which is why I’m so glad I can find assurance someplace else — in God. I know that He had these things happen to me for a reason, so I can rest easy knowing that He’s going to make everything work out. I know that He will be there for me to talk to, and he won’t be disappointing or judgmental.

In times like these, when I feel like I have no control over the circumstances of my life, it’s the best feeling in the world to know that someone else does. Would you rather trust your day-to-day decisions in yourself, or in the God of the universe?

Pride and Sin

Have you ever been on Pinterest and looked at the “Quotes” section? If you go there, you’ll see that there are a lot of encouraging posts. Here are a few of the ones I saw:

“Everything you’ve ever wanted is on the other side of fear.”

“The greatest challenge in life is discovering who you are. The second greatest is being happy with what you find.”

“Best thing I ever did was believe in me.”

Whenever we read quotes like this, we are instantly reaffirmed. We read these and think, yes, this applies to me. Yes, I can do anything. Yes, I am happy with who I am. Yes, I believe in myself.

But is it true? Can you really do anything? Are you really happy with who you are? Do you just believe in yourself? 

If you look around the world for a while, you’ll see that the world wants to reaffirm itself by sending out positive messages. Take a look at a teen magazine. Walk down a high school hallway and glance at the posters.

You can do it! Just be happy! Just be yourself! Try hard and you can accomplish anything!

I don’t know about you, but I know that I’m not happy with myself. Every single day, I am a sinful human being. There is not a single day that goes by that I don’t sin. Does that make me love myself? Absolutely not.

Sin is when your focus is on yourself instead of your neighbor or God. Sin is when all you can think about is me, me, me. I’m so important! I can do it! I just need to be myself to be happy!

Why are we being reaffirmed to be okay with this, with our lives of sin? The world doesn’t want to acknowledge that they mess up, so they make it okay with positive quotes like these. They want to assure themselves that they’re doing the right thing, that they’re doing just fine.

When in reality, we’re not. If I lived every day proud of my sin as the world is, I don’t know where I’d end up. We’re not doing just fine. Every day, the world is choosing to turn to sin. The world is looking at what’s right and saying that it’s wrong. They’re looking at what’s wrong and saying that it’s right.

And if everyone joins together, we get the mentality that maybe it’s true.

But it’s NOT. I know that I’m not perfect. I know that I screw up every day. I know that I sin continuously, knowingly, willingly. And I regret my sin. I’m not proud of it.

And as much as this bothers me, I have relief. Because I know that I am perfect in Christ. Because if Christ didn’t exist, if Christ hadn’t died on the cross for the sin of the world, we’d face God on Judgement Day and all He would see is our awful sin. You see, we don’t deserve anything because of our sin. But since Christ died on the cross, taking on the sin of the world and calling it His own, when I meet God on Judgement Day, all He will see is Jesus. He will see perfection. And He will welcome us with open arms into His Kingdom.

I rest assured knowing that I’m not perfect, because Christ is perfect for me. I’m not proud of my sin, but I’m proud of what Christ has done for me. I don’t believe in myself, because if I did that, I’d be set for failure. But in Christ, nothing will fail. In Christ alone I believe, because He is the only one that can save me, not myself.

Renewed

I don’t like to admit it, but I spent a large portion of this past year completely lost and completely out of touch with my relationship with God. 

Nobody wants to be a lukewarm Christian. Nobody wants to be a hypocrite. Yet, sometimes, we all are. 

I regret so much about this past year. So much pain that could have been eased if I had just let God into my life. So much loneliness that could have been cured if I would have realized God was there all along, pleading for me to come back to Him. 

And far too often it takes a week long experience immersed in Christ and surrounded by like-minded people to bring me back into His arms. 

I almost cried with joy many times this week, which is something I don’t do often. But when you’re surrounded by the people of God, praising Jesus and you come to the realization for what seems like the thousandth time that you will be with Jesus in paradise, it doesn’t matter how many times you’ve heard it before. All that matters is that you’re hearing it again, from your pastors, and it’s like hearing it for the first time. It makes all the difference. 

I know I’ve sinned a lot in this past year. The world likes to take pride in their sin, and make it okay, but I’m glad that I don’t have to lie like that. My sin is awful, and because of it I deserve only death. But I learned this week that Jesus was tempted by everything I have ever been tempted by. Only for all the times I fell into sin knowingly, He did not falter. 

Christianity isn’t about lifting yourself up and making yourself feel better when you realize what you’ve done wrong. It’s about realizing that you’ll always be wrong, and that you cannot save yourself from what you deserve. 

Jesus does that for you. He takes that awful sin and says that He did it. Now when God sees you, He sees beautiful, perfect Jesus, and not any of your ugly sin. 

I can only thank God for bringing me closer to Him this week. I know that He forgives me and that He gives me strength to be closer to Him. I pray that He will keep me in his grasp, because I know nothing can truly take me from His hand. 

Put Yourself out There!

A lot of people talk about stepping outside of their comfort zone. A lot of people never do.

Talk is cheap when it comes to changing things in your life. And if you want things to change in your life, you’re going to have to step outside of your comfort zone. I don’t mean you have to strap on a parachute and jump out of a plane on a whim. Stepping outside of your comfort zone means something different to all of us. But when you do it, it may just change your life.

So you ask, why would I ever need to step outside of my comfort zone? I like it right here. And there’s your problem. We get so content with our lives, our sins, our day to day actions and the same toxic people and bad situations and decisions that we’re used to. We shouldn’t be used to it! If you want things to change in your life, first you have to realize that there’s a problem with where you’re at right now. Are you in a bad relationship that’s going nowhere? Are your friends a not-so-good influence on you? Are your relationships with people you love broken and confusing? Are you lonely, bored, unsatisfied, stressed, confused, heartbroken? Then it’s time to make a change. And change requires action.

Before you make a move on a whim, sit down and talk to God about your situation. What is His purpose for this? What does He want you to do in this? What is He trying to teach you? Ask Him to grant you confidence, wisdom and kindness.

Taking the first step is the hardest. It might mean that you have to bring up something in conversation that makes you feel uncomfortable, stand up to someone, walk away from something, walk towards a new situation, introduce yourself, apologize to someone, tell someone how you feel about them – anything! Big or small, stepping out of your comfort zone in any way is downright scary.

But here’s the thing. You have nothing to be afraid of. I know what you’re thinking, you’re thinking – yes, I do, I’ve never been more scared, and I can’t stop thinking about this, and it’s gnawing and me and I just can’t bring myself to move. I’m scared.

Think about who is on your side though. Think about who is at your side right now. The God of all things! The God who created you, who sent His Son to die for you, who loves you more than you can even possibly imagine. Do you think He would ever put you in a situation that you couldn’t handle? No! That’s why you’re in this situation! Think of who you’re dealing with – people! And who’s on your side – God! Just take a look at Psalm 118:6: “The LORD is with me; I will not be afraid. What can mere mortals do to me?” Nothing!

And if you find yourself about to turn back, think of it this way. There’s a quote from the movie We Bought A Zoo that really resonates with me when it comes to stepping outside of my comfort zone: “You know, sometimes all you need is twenty seconds of insane courage. Just literally twenty seconds of just embarrassing bravery. And I promise you, something great will come of it.”

 

Finals Inspiration

It’s that dreaded time of the year again – finals. What a shame that this time also falls in with the Christmas season! There will be a lot of cramming, stressing, and late nights for the next few weeks, so if you are a student, please accept my advice for getting through this. You can do it!

1. Stress is not needed.

Stress? It’s unnecessary! Stress and worry does nothing but get your mind messed up and always thinking of the worst case scenario. Pray that God can relieve your stress through His love and care. Don’t fall into the temptation to embrace earthly pleasures to take your stress away. Only God can give you true peace.

2. Work hard, but take breaks. 

Your mind can only take so much. While it’s good to work hard, overworking yourself will only damage you more than benefit you. Remind yourself to take breaks, drink water, eat healthy, and be with friends and family.

3. Keep your go-to Bible verses handy.

John 14:27, Psalm 118:5-6, Proverbs 16:3, Psalm 94:19, Philippians 4:6-7, Romans 8:28…just to name a few. Post them where you’re most likely to be. Read them when you get stressed. Memorize them so they’ll come to mind when you’re feeling overwhelmed.

4. Remember that everything happens for a reason.

Sometimes, you study, work hard, prepare yourself, and it’s still not enough to achieve what you wanted. That’s life. Remembering that everything that happens for a reason gives me so much comfort about things like finals. So work hard, prepare yourself, and study, and then put it into God’s hands. Remember that no matter what you do, God will always be there. Although getting good grades should be your goal, finals and school aren’t everything. One bad grade is not the end of the world.

 

Lost

For the past month, I have just felt completely and utterly lost.

One minute I feel one thing, the next I am on the other end of the spectrum. One minute I want to cling to God, the next I want nothing to do with Him. One minute I want to hole up inside myself and do nothing, and the next I am tempted to sin, to turn back to the things that hurt me in the first place.

It always seems to happen this way in my life. My relationship with God grows so strong and solid, my love for him is completely on fire, and before I even realize what’s happening, I’m spiraling into sin and temptation and I can hear a voice in my head saying “don’t do this”, but I still do it, and before too long I am left broken, hurt, lonely and confused and I wonder, “How did I ever let this happen to myself?”

I let it happen too often, and I should learn from this. Yet I don’t. And after the worst of my suffering is over, I feel too guilty to turn to God. I think, I’ve ignored him for months, I have not included him in my decisions, I have knowingly ignored His pleas for me to turn to Him and instead have focused on earthly pleasures. How could He ever want me back? When most likely I will tumble into this cycle again before too long?

But He does want me back. He wants me to turn to Him, no matter how many times I turn away from Him. He forgives me. And likewise, He forgives you. I know there are so many other people in this same situation, and it’s hard. You know that God is there, you know that His path is the right path to take, but you consciously choose to go down the other path. And after you’ve seen that that path only leads to destruction, you know you need to make a turn in your life.

God is there, with open arms. He will love you and accept you no matter how many times you tumble down the wrong path. And hopefully, we will learn from our mistakes. We will turn to God the next time we meet a fork in the road and are tempted to embrace earthly pleasures. We will no longer have to feel lost, because we will know that we are always found and always have an identity through Christ.