Mentoring Others

Over fall break, I went back to my church at home and visited with some good friends. Some of them I hadn’t seen in months, and some I had not seen in quite some time. In particular, I spent most of my time visiting with a person who has influenced my life greatly. He had taught my Sunday school class during high school, but some days we would just talk about our lives. He did not know this, but I learned a lot from him, especially when we were just honest with each other about our spiritual lives and talking about how to continually be faithful in high school and in college.

 

My bible professor, Dr. Mark Owens, said in class that there needs to be three different kinds of friends in your life. You need a Paul: someone who can influence you and mentor you, someone that who is more spiritually mature than you and can provide wisdom from experience. You need someone who is relatively as spiritually mature as you that you can walk the journey of faith with. You also need a Timothy: someone who is less spiritually mature as you, someone that with the gifts God has provided you, you can influence their faith and have an impact in their lives.

 

Most of us have a Paul-like friend and also walk in the faith with others, but do you have friends that are your Timothy? Do you know a friend or friends that may be new in the walk that need some guidance? And if you do, then how do we approach them or help them out from our own spiritual experiences and knowledge? How can we impact their lives?

 

I am usually afraid to give people advice because I think that I should wait until I know everything. But the truth is, I will not know everything. Paul could mentor Timothy not because Paul was so good but because of how God worked in his life. Paul shared his testimony and his own failures in order for Timothy to see God’s grace in Paul’s own life. So, no we don’t have to have our lives together to be able to mentor others, but we can share how Christ is revealed in our own brokenness. Let’s actually be honest about our brokenness to others for once and not expose our fake ‘have it all together’ persona.

 

We are called by God to care and love the people around us. We also may never know what influence we might have to others. Our life is supposed to represent Christ and what true Christianity looks like to others and to outsiders who don’t know Christ. Therefore, make yourself available to others, share the wisdom that God has given you, pray with them and give advice in love to those who are willing to listen. Let us become more like Jesus to invest in people’s lives so that the name Jesus Christ is proclaimed continually on this earth.

 

“You then, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable people who will also be qualified to teach others” (2 Timothy 2:1-2)

 

“So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, 12 to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up 13 until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ” (Ephesians 4:11-13).

Resting in the Promises of God

 

One of my favorite artists today is Jon McLaughlin. Most people know him for his biggest single, “Beautiful Disaster” and other people know him as the ballroom singer from the movie Enchanted. But one song I would like to talk about today is his song, “Oh Jesus”.

Listen to the song below before you continue to read the rest of the blog:

 

If you could talk to Jesus face to face, what questions would you ask him?

When I first listened to this, I didn’t exactly understand his purpose of writing this song. It just seemed to me like a one-sided conversation with Jesus. I had to listen to this a few more times to finally get a feel for the song. Jon McLaughlin did an interview a few years back, and the interviewer asked what prompted him to record this song. He replied by saying, “It was a culmination of a bunch of general feelings…how things work, why are there huge tragedies in the world and these small victories. We choose credit for some things, but not other things…There are no answers in the song. It’s just me talking to Jesus about all these thoughts” (Ellen Hawkins, “Interview with Jon McLaughlin”, Relatemag.com).

I would love to analyze the whole song with you, but for now, I want to focus on these questions that Jon asks Jesus:

Can you hear me? How am I doing? Am I proving worth of all the time you’ve spent? Have you decided where I am going?

Have you seen the news? Tell me do we help, or do we hurt?

 

Which questions above have you asked Jesus or have thought about any of these? Have you ever asked for reassurance about yourself? Or about how our nation is doing, and whether are future is still bright?

Whenever I make a big decision, I am in desperate need of reassurance from God, so I know I made the right choice. Or when I go through emotionally draining weeks, I sometimes wonder if I am living my life the way that I should. Am I alone in this, or do you feel the same way?

Jon may have said that there were no answers in his song, but the Book of Hebrews gives us an answer, a reminder of God’s Certainty of His Promises:

 

When God made his promise to Abraham, since there was no one greater for him to swear by, he swore by himself, saying, “I will surely bless you and give you many descendants.” And so after waiting patiently, Abraham received what was promised. People swear by someone greater than themselves, and the oath confirms what is said and puts an end to all argument. Because God wanted to make the unchanging nature of his purpose very clear to the heirs of what was promised, he confirmed it with an oath. God did this so that, by two unchangeable things in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled to take hold of the hope set before us may be greatly encouraged. We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure. It enters the inner sanctuary behind the curtain, where our forerunner, Jesus, has entered on our behalf. He has become a high priest forever, in the order of Melchizedek”  (Hebrews 6: 13-20).

 

Just as God fulfilled his promises with Abraham, He will fulfill his promises with us also. God gives us this incredible hope that we can hold on to. It is God’s faithfulness that prompts us to continue to cling on to Him, therefore, our trust should be in God Himself, and not in our own efforts or works. This hope prevents us from drifting away from God as long as we continue to trust Him, hence why the author compares hope as an ‘anchor’. God’s promises are the foundation of our hope that can give us assurance that helps us persevere in times of trials. Since God’s covenant with Abraham is fulfilled in Christ, then this should be our basis for our faith; therefore, rejecting Jesus is rejecting faith.

 

So how can we count on God’s promises? Easy, because He can be trusted. His fulfillment of promises is written throughout Scripture. God’s promises are true and they are certain. These promises will support us in times of struggle. God and His promises are what we should only count on. Not ourselves, not on our works, not our relationships, but God Himself and Who He is. Because He is the only one who will always keep his promises. The difficult part is letting Him in our lives and letting Him have control of it.

 

So when you face uncertainty, rest in the promises of God. He hears your prayers and your thoughts, but God is working in you. But you need to give Him your trust. Now the question is turned to you: Are you going to trust God? Or will you continue to drown yourself in fear and uncertainty?

 

When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze” (Isaiah 43: 2).

I have made you and I will carry you; I will sustain you and I will rescue you” (Isaiah 46:4).

Don’t Let Doubts Defeat You

It’s that time of year we have all been dreading: midterms. Midterms and other exams can really be draining, especially when it comes to your hardest classes. So this week, I thought I could bring some encouragement for when our work load becomes more than what we can handle.

There is a saying that goes around: “God won’t give you more than you can handle”. Is this a true statement? If we look at 1 Corithians 10:13,

“No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.”

Is this what Paul is telling us? Let’s look at this as a college point of view.

There will be at least one college course here at school that you will struggle with. You may be consuming all your time studying for that class, but your grades still don’t look so great. This can be really frustrating and mostly discouraging, sometimes you doubt your ability to succeed. College isn’t meant to be easy. Here at Cedarville University, you will be challenged academically and spiritually to be ready for the real world. Sometimes a class seems too difficult, and the work for the rest of the semester seems too much. And the work load before doing it, already puts you down. To me, I want to be self-sufficient, and when getting grades I am not pleased about, I tend to let it bring me down and worry about what the rest of college is going to look like.

But the Bible tells us to not worry about the future as long as we trust in the Lord and not our own ability, God will provide. He will provide you a path to follow:

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight” (Proverbs 3:5-6).

So this is my advice: If you are going to be defeated by a college course, then at least give it your best effort. Give it your best shot with the abilites God has given you. Use your free time outside of classes wisely. But don’t be absorbed by what your grades look like too. Grades are important, sure, but your growth in character and your growth in knowledge is more important. And the only way to grow is through the challenges that life throws at us:

“Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance;  perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us” (Romans 5:1-5).

We can’t be successful at everything, and you might face challenges that seem to be too much for you, but don’t work against God’s plans for you and let your doubts defeat you.

So back to the question, does God not give us more than we can handle? Well, this is only partially true. I think at least one class here at Cedarville is going to be a class that we may not be able to handle with our own strength. And this only portrays our weakness and how much we need God’s strength. So it’s not really about if we can handle it or not, it’s more about that God will help us through all we have been given, as long as we trust and have faith that He will provide.

Fear, You Don’t Own Me! – Thoughts on “The Breakup Song” by Francesca Battistelli

Song Credits: “The Breakup Song” by Francesca Battistelli

As a child, what were your biggest fears?

Maybe you were afraid of the dark or monsters. Maybe you were afraid of thunder. Or like me, maybe you were afraid of everything.

As we get older, most of the irrational fears fall by the wayside. At least, they probably should. But I’m honestly still afraid of Narnia and riding a bike.

Unfortunately, these childish fears are often replaced with other fears.

Fear of failure. Fear of rejection. Fear of losing people we love. Fear of the future. Fear of what people think.

Sometimes, fear keeps us from moving forward. Sometimes, fear keeps us from doing what God is calling us to do. Fear calls us to the comfortable; the familiar. Fear causes us to waste valuable time worrying over what we can’t control. Fear will get us nowhere in life.

As someone who greatly struggles with fear, I really appreciate Francesca Battistelli’s “The Breakup Song”.  You can hear this incredible song on Resound Radio, and feel free to check out the video above.

I love the idea of “breaking up” with fear.

In the chorus, she sings:
Fear, you don’t own me
There ain’t no room in this story
And I ain’t got time for you telling me what I’m not
Like you know me, well guess what
I know who I am
I know I’m strong and I am free
Got my own identity
So fear, you will never be welcome here

Breaking up is definitely an emotional process. If you’ve ever been in a relationship that didn’t work out, you know the feelings involved.

Spring 2017, I thought for sure I was going to marry a coworker. He loved the 50s like I did. He was interested in radio. He was old-fashioned and respectful. He was great with customers. But he wasn’t a Christian. As it turns out, he only cared about himself and what he wanted.

We never moved past the “friends” stage, but I spent way too much time thinking about him, texting him, and inviting him to church or family dinners.  By last July, he stopped texting me and it became apparent he had moved on. While it hurt at the time, I’m so glad that this relationship didn’t work out. I was in the wrong frame of mind. I had become so absorbed in him and his hobbies that I forgot who I was. 

And you know what? Fear does the same thing. It seems comforting and welcoming at first, but ultimately traps us into forgetting who we are. 

Breaking up is hard to do. Some fears have had such a strong hold on us that it’s difficult to let them go. But with God’s help, it’s possible to be free from fear.

Our identity is not found in fear. It’s found in Christ. Under fear, we’re slaves. Under God, we’re free.

If you’re someone who struggles with fear like me, here are some amazing verses that can help us learn to trust God and not live under fear’s control.

  • For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” ~ Romans 8:15 (ESV)
  • For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control. ~ 2 Timothy 1:7 (ESV)
  • Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid. ~ John 14:27 (ESV)

What are some ways that you deal with fair? Do you think the “breakup” analogy works well in this case? I’d love to hear your thoughts and thanks so much for reading!

 

Finding Light in the Darkness

 

 “This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all” (1 John 1:5).

August 11, 2014. I remember the day quite well. I remember looking at my notifications seeing the news appear on the screen. The news blew up quickly. I was in shock, and quite surprised to hear the news: Robin Williams, dead at 63. It absorbed most of my time for weeks, I was all over the internet, going through research trying to find answers and understanding. I had no idea what Robin Williams was going through until after his death. I took it really hard because of many reasons. The first being he was a man with a gift of humor. Whenever I was having a bad day, I knew I could count on Williams to cheer me up through his movies and especially through Mork & Mindy.I recently watched Good Morning Vietnam right before he died for a school summer project. It was sad for me to know that I wouldn’t be able to see his joyous face on the camera anymore.

Another reason I took it hard was the cause of death: suicide. Goodness…it is hard for me to hear that someone gave up the gift of life because darkness took over. Depression. Such a difficult topic to discuss that we are afraid to bring it up. But I feel that we need to know that depression is not uncommon. I did some research for this article. According to the ADAA (Anxiety and Depression Association of America) website, anxiety is affecting over 40 million adults in the United States. “Anxiety Disorders also affect 25.1% of children between the ages of 13 and 18,” (ADAA.org). But not everyone is getting the help they need. On average there are 123 suicide deaths per day according to AFSP (American Foundation for Suicide Prevention). That is approximately 5 people committing suicide every hour. As I am writing this, I can feel my heart crumble knowing that this is happening across the country, and across the world.

Some people might not really care about these stats and will shrug it off. But there are people who want to help. Most likely, someone that you know is experiencing depression or has experienced depression.

In high school, I experienced deep depression. I struggled to focus on school work and I always had the feeling of desperately wanting to sleep in bed and never leave my bedroom. It was difficult living a normal life. There was a time that I was suicidal, but God saved me from that. I haven’t experienced depression like that since, but there are days where I still feel the darkness surfacing, trying to take over my heart again. But my relationship with the Lord is more powerful than the temptations of Satan.

Flash forward to my first year in college, I get a phone call during spring break hearing that a close family member of mine committed suicide. It has been utterly heartbreaking since then. And the worst part was that not only did I not know that he felt that way, but that I also similarly understand the pain he went through and I had no clue about it. Now that I know how he felt, I can never go back to change the past.

Those of you who struggle the battle of darkness, here is what helped me. First, I reached out to people in my life who I trusted and looked up to. A few people from my church remind me of the Lord’s unfailing love & grace every time I see them. My immediate family, especially my gracious mother, helped me get through this too. I knew I wasn’t alone and that I had an ‘army’ who was willing to pray for me and protect me. Another thing that I did was I reached out to someone that I knew that was very knowledgeable in scripture and knew what I was going through. He gave me scripture that I can use to remind me to continue to trust in the Lord and that He is working through me for a purpose.

It is hard to accept and continually believe that our suffering has a purpose. Our suffering is best described by my Dr. David Jeremiah Study Bible, “Suffering teaches believers to stay under pressuree, like squeezing an olive in a press to extract oil. This pressure results from the conflict of two truths: faith and its enduring benefits versus a fallen world under Satan’s influence”.

This person also reminded me that Jesus felt this very feeling of deep sadness too. In Matthew 26:36-46, when Jesus was in Gethsemane, he said to his disciples that his soul was “overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death”(vs. 38). If you translated that in this world, it would be like saying you were so sad that you would want to die. Anyone who has felt this way could relate to Jesus at that moment in time. It is relieving to know that our own Savior felt this way too, mainly because He knows exactly what we are going through in our own hearts. David, another man in the Bible who knew what it felt like too. There are many Psalms that we could relate to. Psalms 5,6, 42,43…but my favorite of all: Psalm 13. But is what is so amazing about this psalm is that after he describes his pain, he ends with this:

“But I trust in your unfailing love; my heart rejoices in your salvation. I will sing the Lord’s praise, for he has been good to me.” (Psalm 13:5-6; NIV)

Here, David admits and expresses his emotions to God and even though he struggles in his pain, he still clings to the hope that God because of how God has already worked in his life. David reminds us to continue to run to God for security.

This Psalm also reminds me how amazing and powerful our Lord is:

“I lift up my eyes to the mountains—
    where does my help come from?
My help comes from the Lord,
    the Maker of heaven and earth.

He will not let your foot slip—
    he who watches over you will not slumber;
indeed, he who watches over Israel
    will neither slumber nor sleep.

The Lord watches over you—
    the Lord is your shade at your right hand;
the sun will not harm you by day,
    nor the moon by night.

The Lord will keep you from all harm—
    he will watch over your life;
the Lord will watch over your coming and going
    both now and forevermore.”

(Psalm 121; NIV)

This psalmist reminds us that our help, all of our help, comes from the Lord above. God has unspeakable and infinite powers and abilities to assist us through our own trials.

If you ever struggle with depression, go to the Lord for help. I also encourage you to talk about it with someone you know. Talking about it is helpful to let it out than to hide your thoughts and feelings inside, it tends to be overwhelming. This will be a process, but I promise the journey is worth it. Right now, I know someone I deeply love and care for is struggling with severe depression and anxiety. And it is definitely harder to watch something you’ve experienced happen to someone you love. But I know that I need to continue praying and let God work through this person. To my mentors, you have impacted me immensely and I wouldn’t be where I am without you. And to my family, thank you for always loving and supporting me.

Remember, God isn’t finished with you yet, He has still plans for you, they are just work in progress.