Our God is an Awesome God

“When I survey the wondrous cross,

On which the Prince of glory died,

My richest gain I count but loss,

And pour contempt on all my pride.

Forbid it, Lord, that I should boast,

Save in the death of Christ my God!

All the vain things that charm me most,

I sacrifice them to His blood.

See from His head, His hands, His feet,

Sorrow and love flow mingled down!

Did ever such love and sorrow meet,

Or thorns compose so rich a crown?

Were the whole realm of nature mine,

That were a present far too small;

Love so amazing, so divine,

Demands my soul, my life, my all.”

(When I Survey the Wondrous Cross, Isaac Watts)

It is the most stressful time of the year! That is what the college kids are singing. We’re on the home stretch, almost done with the semester. Though I must keep up on my studies and focus on school, it never gives me the excuse to forget about my time with the Lord. It is so easy for us humans to forget the one and only who can protect us from what life throws at us. That is why we must fight and continue facing the battle of sin every day. One of the many quotes I will never forget, “The battle is within, daily I must fight. Death comes from sin killed only by Christ’s might…Every day that you wake up, you’re in a battle. You take sin and you put it to death” (Mark Vroegop).

School and personal issues in my life tend to fill up my day pretty quickly. It causes me to become self-absorbed and self-centered that I tend to forget to look for help from the Lord. But here is what I love most about going to a Christian university. It reminds me every day that I am a sinner, but a child of God. My friends, professors, and teammates redirect me from my sinful nature to God’s will and His plan for me. Without God I am nothing. “Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made,” (John 1:3, NIV). If we believe that we can do anything without our Father, then we are just fooling ourselves. For Jesus says, “I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit. Apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:5, NIV). 

If you struggle with self-absorption, I want you to take a moment and look at the night sky or stare at the endless view of the ocean. Our world is vastly large. And in this world, you are only a speck of dust. You are one in seven billion. In case you didn’t know, that is an extremely small fraction. It doesn’t matter how powerful or famous you are. You are just one human being in this entire universe. But you know what the crazy thing is? Even though there are only a few that know you, God can spot you out. He knows everything about you, more than you will ever know. He created you and gave you the unique characteristics that only you have. And though you are a sinner just like everyone else, He still calls you His own. That is the greatest love story ever told. Fellow readers, this is true love.

“This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins…God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God and God in him. In this way, love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment because in this world we are like him…We love because he first loved us” (1 John 4:9-10, 16b, 19, NIV).

I encourage and challenge you to anyone reading this to make a daily personal time to God to help us to focus on what we are called to do. Let us also show God’s love to others so we can remind others of His love for us as well and for to show His love to ones who do not yet know His love. Let us try to do our best and kill the sin that comes at us each day.

 

The Importance of Character

Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves” (2 Corinthians 13:5a)

It’s time to take a test. Don’t worry this test will not affect your GPA. But this test is far more important than your academics.

I have one question to ask you: Where are you in your faith?

Now be honest with yourself, don’t lie saying you are doing just fine. For me to truly answer myself this question, I break it down into multiple questions:

What is your prayer life like? Are you praying often? And if you are, what are you praying for?

Are you attempting to enlighten others through the gospel? Are you trying to win an argument for the sake of yourself and the argument? Do you look at others and tell them why they’re wrong and you’re right? Are you providing this person comfort in the Word of God? Is your goal to boast your intelligence or to point others to God?

Do you seek help? My last blog I mentioned that you need someone like a Paul and a Timothy in your life. Do you have a Paul-like friend who can provide you wisdom that continually points back to Christ? Do you have a mentor that can help you mature more and more spiritually?

Can you take criticism from others? When your friends point out your wrongs, how do you respond? Do you respond humbly? Do you turn the other cheek? Or do you respond in outrage and in anger?

What is your motive? What are you aiming for? Is your goal to further yourself in the gospel or is your goal for self-centered?

Finally, are you always focused on God and His glory? Is what you’re doing glorifying God or is what you’re doing for selfish reasons?

 

Pondering through these questions, I would assume that you would say that you’re not in a place that you want to be in as of right now. And that’s okay. Our relationship is not going to ever be perfect or what we want it to be ideally. But we can grateful that Christ’s faith is perfect. He is good and fulfilled the covenant that God said in the Old Testament that He would do when the Messiah came. For the Bible tells us, “Jesus is the same yesterday and today and forever” (Hebrews 13:8).

So, why am I asking you this exactly? Well for many reasons. One being that it is good to reflect on your relationship with God and focus on the areas of sin in your life that need to be attended to. Another reason being that our relationship with God and our spiritual maturity our reflected on our character.

Character is what defines you. It is what you are and how you choose to live your life: the good, the bad and the ugly. Now, no one on earth will never really know our true selves, but the scary thing for me is: God also knows who I truly am. He knows everything about me, every memory, every thought, everything that I have said and done. He knows all and sees all (Psalm 139:7-8). So, if you are hiding your true character from others, you aren’t hiding anything from God.

Good character is an important quality to have not just as a person but as a Christian as well. Solomon defined character as something better than our own appearance (Ecclesiastes 7:1a).

God designed us specifically to glorify and proclaim His name in everything we do. I’m sure that everyone at Cedarville usually correspond to character to Boaz from the book of Ruth which is good, but how can we specifically improve our character? One of the many areas in the Bible that gives us a good illustration is in Colossians where Paul commands the people of Colosse:

Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these things put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” (Colossians 3:12-17).

It is hard to do, yes, but my mission for you is to continue to strive for perfection, become more like Jesus. We are going to continually fail but let’s not forget why we do this: to become closer with God and to allow our lives to be a glimpse of who He is and His glory to others. So I hope that you may continually ask yourselves those questions I gave to you earlier so that you, may flourish into greatness.

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).

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.