Blog

Harmless Conversation

Several weeks ago, as I was having coffee and enjoying conversation with a friend, God challenged me. It was a simple question, but in reality is one of the things I struggle with most.

He simply asked, “Why is this conversation important?”

I didn’t hear an audible voice but felt it in my heart. My friend and I were having a normal conversation and discussing life, work, and how summer would soon be ending. At some point the topic turned to discussion of a mutual friend and several rumors that we had heard about her. Of course since both of us had heard the same things, it was true and needed to be talked about, right? Wrong. Our conversation had gone from uplifting to destructive very quickly.

James 3:10 says,

From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so.”

This verse hit my heart so deeply. It was exactly what we had just done, and it was inappropriate. This verse was written for me that night and God knew I needed to hear it. So many times I find myself in situations similar to this. Harmless conversation can become negative very quickly.

Hold Your Tongue

Chapter 3 of James goes into detail of how much power our tongues actually have. The things that we say can bring either encouragement or pain. It is in our control, and that’s why it can be so harmful. I was challenged with the fact that even small snide comments that I think are funny can be very degrading and hurtful to someone else. I consistently need to check my heart and ask myself, “What are my intentions?”

Jesus lived a perfect life on earth and as Christians we are to be imitators of Him. Every day we face challenges and taming our tongues is just one of many. My challenge to you this week is to strive to be like Jesus in this area. Strive for that perfection. Pay attention to the things that you are saying and conversations in which you are participating.

– Monica Schlabach

What is First?

Go green. KONY 2012. For just pennies a day.

We are surrounded by agendas – good and bad – every moment of our lives. I would say even more so on a college campus, where organizations have “converts” so easily at their fingertips. I know it’s hard to walk through the Pentacrest without getting a flyer put in my face.

Don’t get me wrong. I find it amazing how God has given us individual passions to change the world and our communities. Without those passions, we’d just be apathetic, lazy bums.

But when does it become too much? When does “save the whales!” and “vote YES to the pool tax!” become overplayed? With so many slogans and organizations to choose from, how do we not become numb to the real people, the real hurt, behind the words and logos?

I read something the other day that really convicted me. It was a blog post about how God is not a member of a particular political party or nonprofit organization. God is for people. God is for us.

Period.

biking in Iowa

Biking in beautiful Iowa!

Choosing Our Battles

Over the years, I have been on a journey to make my actions more environmentally friendly (whatever that means). I’ve chosen organic and local, planted a garden, started composting, and gotten into “commuter cycling”. I even do some canning, for heaven’s sake.

For a long time, it was hard for me to understand how others could not be doing what I’m trying to do. Don’t you care about the planet God has given us? Don’t you realize that environmental problems are the root cause of many other problems such as war and hunger?

On the other hand, I myself have been introduced to many organizations that I don’t give a rip about. Sure, they are noble. Sure, they are just. But what’s the motive? Is God in it?

The post that I read talked about putting people first. Our primary desire for each day should be to reach our neighbors, classmates, colleagues, and loved ones for Jesus.

Matthew 22: 37-39 says,

And he said to him, ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.'”

While I do believe that God cares about the organizations we are a part of (Why would he want us to destroy his planet? He doesn’t want anyone to have cancer!) and would not have given us those interests if not, it can become dangerous when we use our faith as the main support of those actions.

Billboard Jesus

“Bong hits for Jesus.” “God hates fags.” “Pro-life, pro-God, pro-gun.”

I’m sure those phrases evoke some sort of emotion in most of you, whether it’s anger, amusement, or sadness. They are just a few examples of how individuals and organizations have used Christianity and the name of Jesus as the face of their endeavors; although they may have had good intentions, it just didn’t work.

Let’s go back about two thousand years ago, when Jesus was a living, breathing man, walking around on this earth.

The Jews of the time did the same exact thing that many of us try to do today. They used Jesus as a poster boy for their own, political agenda.

King of the Jews. The Messiah.

While Jesus did come to rescue his people, he did not intend to do so by force. He would not rule on earth, as many of his followers expected him to do (Mark 10:35-37). He would not put together an army to destroy Rome and save Israel from oppression.

Jesus came to die for our sins. He was not interested in how others perceived him. He most certainly did not want to be elevated to some sort of icon for the Jewish people (John 6:15).

Neither does he want that today.

I think the most important thing we can focus on is modeling our lives after Jesus. Everything else comes second. Am I saying to burn your org t-shirts? No. Pull your monthly donations to WWF? Nope. I just think that if our hearts are burning stronger for any other agenda besides Jesus’, then something is wrong.

Take a moment to re-evaluate your passions, goals and priorities. I know that I have. Whatever I do, I want God to be first.

Period.

– Shianne Gruss

You’ve Changed

This past Saturday night, Kayla, Evie and I were driving out to Southwestern Iowa to share at a church. It was late into the evening, and Evie was sleeping, so Kayla and I were able to just talk. What I love about late night car rides is that it seems to allow for candid conversation and deep connection.

Things have changed since our wedding day five years ago!

Things have changed since our wedding day five years ago!

This July 31st will be our five-year anniversary, and so out in the middle of nowhere late at night we began to reflect on the past six years of our relationship. We talked about a lot of different things, but the one thing that we spent most the time talking about was how much we’ve changed.

Kayla said,

Tony, you’ve really changed, especially in the past year — and even the last three months of being a father. You’re much more considerate and caring now.”

Thank you Jesus!

Now when someone says, “You’ve changed,” you hope they mean you’ve changed for the better. Someone could say, “You’re not the person I remember. You’ve changed. You use to be so happy and now you seem so bitter, what happened?” What they mean is that you changed in a negative way.

For those of us who know Jesus though, when someone says you’ve changed, what they hopefully mean is that you have joy, peace and a new sense of identity and purpose that you didn’t have before.

Think about the time you’ve been with Jesus. Have you changed? What’s different? I know for certain all of you can say you have changed, and if you need help pin-pointing those things I’d love to help you!

When we surrender our lives wholly to Jesus, the Holy Spirit takes residence in us and because of that He begins to change us from the inside out. We are washed clean in the blood of Jesus, and our sins are blotted out! But He doesn’t just clean us off and send us on our way. No! As we remain surrendered to His will and His ways, the Holy Spirit continues the transformation. There is a continuing transforming of our lives for the rest of our lives. So if we ever stop growing or allowing ourselves to be changed — by God we are in trouble.

Romans 12:1-2 says,

I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.”

Paul is begging them and us to live completely sold out, surrendered and willing to do anything for Jesus without a mixture of the Kingdom and the world in our hearts. He says that this is a totally logical response to God’s mercy and love for us. He then goes on to say we can’t allow the world to influence or change us, but to be transformed by a continual renewing of our head and hearts so that we will experience God’s will in an authentic and genuine way.

You see, we only have so much room in us. If we fill our minds and hearts with the things of the world, then those things will affect our perceptions, beliefs and actions. If we fill our minds and hearts with the things of God, then we will be transformed by Him. I’m not saying we need to all move out to the mountains and completely cut ourselves off from the world. What I am saying is be careful what you allow to consume your heart, mind and time.

Time is one thing we all are a slave to. We all have 24 hours in a day. No one has more, no one has less. If you sleep for eight hours (hopefully) and do work or school for eight hours, what are you doing with the other 8 hours? Do you spend hours on the computer or hours watching TV or hours playing video games? None of these things are inherently bad, but if it’s causing us to remain stagnant in our relationship with Jesus, is it really a good thing?

Maybe you spend a lot of time worrying about the next step in life, and so you’re always thinking about and researching all possible outcomes, and it’s consuming your mind. I wonder what God has to say about the next step. Maybe the best place to go is to Him?

We could spend pages and pages talking about all of the truth that is jammed into these two verses, but we don’t have space here to do that, so I want to challenge you to spend this week and really meditate on this passage. Go through it phrase by phrase and allow it to ruminate in your heart. Spend time talking and listening to God and allow His Word to search your hearts. Ask yourself the question, “Am I still being changed? Am I still growing?”

Bless you guys and look forward to seeing many of you soon! I love you!

– Tony Meyer

Into the Lion’s Mouth

Puerto Rico Group

The group in San Juan
Left to right: Jean Heglund, Gary Bilyeu, Lonnie Bilyeu, Jennifer Leavy, Ryan Bacon, Diane Nichols, Shianne Gruss, Adam Kolosik

As many of you know, I recently (about a month ago now) got back from a missions trip to San Juan, Puerto Rico with LIFE Church. There were exactly eight of us, from all different walks in life and our relationships with Jesus. I can’t stress enough how incredible it was to see God use each one of us, as we are and with our individual passions and talents.

God did and is continuing to do amazing things in San Juan. Pastor Humberto (Bert) Pizarro is a man after the Lord’s heart and plan for the San Juan community. He kept telling us that he and his wife have chosen to go “into the lion’s mouth” (Amos 3:12) to literally rescue the broken people all around them and bring them to a relationship with Christ. Connected Life Church, which they pioneered, is situated not far from the corners where prostitutes are picked up and drugs are dealt: the proverbial lion’s den.

Thus says the Lord: ‘As the shepherd rescues from the mouth of the lion two legs, or a piece of an ear, so shall the people of Israel who dwell in Samaria be rescued, with the corner of a couch and part of a bed.'” – Amos 3:12

Since it’s never wise to take a verse out of context and twist it to fulfill our own devices, it’s important to know the context of any piece of scripture. Amos was a prophet and spoke widely of Israel’s disconnect from God and their selfish pursuits. In this verse, Amos is saying that very few of the Israelites – God’s people – will be saved when the enemy attacks them. More, saving an individual will be as easy as pulling a piece of bone or marrow from a lion’s mouth once he’s sunk his teeth into his prey.

I don’t know about you guys, but this bit of scripture sounds pretty disheartening to me. Pulling people out of lions’ mouths? How could I ever do this? I’m not a missionary in San Juan, Puerto Rico. I’m just an average [insert title] in the middle of nowhere [insert place].

Except you can. And God is just waiting for you to say “I’m willing”.

The Sheep

Speaking of shepherds and sheep, I’m actually reminded of a famous parable. (You can find it in Matthew 18:12 and Luke 15:4.) In these two very similar passages, Jesus is using a relatively relatable situation to speak to the crowd. In short, He asks them all what they would do if they had 100 sheep, but one went astray. Wouldn’t you go after the one and leave the 99? Jesus asks.

As that certain date on the university calendar looms ever closer, I think of not just the hundreds – but the thousands – of students who don’t know Jesus on our campus. I think of the hurt I’ve gone through in my own life and the struggles my family faces every day, and I just can’t imagine getting through it all without knowing Jesus or without having this community of believers we call Chi Alpha.

I believe, as Jasmine wrote in her post last week, that God has a purpose for everything. I believe with all of my heart that I am here, you are here, Chi Alpha is here on this campus for a reason.

This isn’t some cheesy advertisement to get you pumped about Chi Alpha, but I hope it does that. I hope that, after what may seem like either a very short or very long summer on our own and perhaps even away from Iowa City or the state of Iowa in general, we can come back together and stand in the gap for our campus.

The Shepherds

I think of two prominent figures in the bible: Moses and Esther. (You can find their stories in the books of Exodus and Esther.) Both have a God-given duty to fulfill, and that is to save their people from suffering. However, they both doubt their usefulness and flat out make excuses.

In Exodus 3:11, Moses asks God,

Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the children of Israel out of Egypt?”

Moses thinks he is not good enough. Esther, on the other hand, would rather spare her own life than save her people from death (Esther 4:10-11).

Let’s get one thing straight. If Esther wouldn’t have stepped up, someone else would have. If Moses wouldn’t have been willing to save the Hebrews, God would’ve found another. (Actually, God ends up using Moses’ brother, Aaron, as His mouthpiece, since Moses whines so much.)

But God clearly wanted to use them, and here we are in the 21st century still citing their stories.

In Esther 4:14, her Uncle Mordecai asks,

Who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this?”

I encourage you all to ask yourself that question. Who knows whether you have not come to the University of Iowa for such a time as this? God has big things planned for Chi Alpha – not to make us look good – but to make Himself look good and to bring lost students to a relationship with Jesus.

If you aren’t already, begin to pray for those students, and pray for our campus.

God has sent us into the lion’s mouth.

– Shianne Gruss

Living Intentionally

I often challenge the adage “everything happens for a reason.” I’ve never been prone to believing that daily, everything I do or don’t do, has a profound amount of influence on my future. Sometimes it is easy for me to believe that God only wants me to be intentional with people important to me, or only at church, and not concern myself with the world around. Not involve myself with with people at my job, or in passing. However, that’s not at all what He has in mind.

Last August during my first week of college, I met a girl named Harneet at a bonfire. We only chatted long enough for me to learn she was studying abroad from England, and then we went our separate ways. I assumed we wouldn’t see each other again considering the size of the university, and then one night, six months later, she showed up at Chi Alpha! She said she had been looking for a ministry that was led by the Holy Spirit, and something that would challenge and encourage her in her relationship with Christ. I was so excited to share that common ground with her! After that night, Harneet and I became very close friends. We were at similar stages in our relationships with God, but we had extremely different backgrounds. Because of this, there was serious room for the both of us to grow and learn from one another, and that’s exactly what happened.

One of my favorite things about God is his ability to surprise us, and bring something so special into our lives without us even realizing it. Harneet moved back to England at the end of the spring term, but I hope to see her soon. I would never have expected to see her again, let alone develop the type of fruitful, accountable, and genuine relationship her and I now share. God surprised me with bringing Harneet and I together again, and in such a cool, unexpected way. Even though I didn’t see what God was doing that night at the bonfire, He showed me six months later.

The thing with God is, no matter how we see or feel or perceive things, He always sees them for exactly what they are. He has planned out a life for us, each and every thing we do and will do. Don’t you think then, that everything does happen for something bigger than only the moment we’re currently in? God uses every situation, big or small, every testimony, heartbreaking or encouraging, in whichever way He pleases. And let me tell you, He is not a fickle, haphazard man. He has planned for quite some time the simplest of things, down to each breath we take, and he uses every instance He can to show himself. This includes in our every day life, whether we know it or not.

In Isaiah 61 it says,

The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me, because the Lord has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives, and release from the darkness for the prisoners, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn, and provide for those who grieve in Zion– to bestow them a crown of beauty in stead of ashes.”

This passage wasn’t just directed for an audience of an ancient time. It was directed for you and I; God wants us to be intentional with our lives, every day and do great things for His kingdom. Don’t think that you have less influence than you truly do. You are a child and friend of the one true, reigning King. You have His favor and influence in every second of your day, and each of those He has designed intentionally.

So, yes, everything does happen for a reason. The dimensions in which God wants to show us His love are innumerable, and He uses any and every opportunity to do so– we just have to be willing to acknowledge that.

– Jasmine Ketelsen

Leveraging Your Mountains

I’ve been ruminating on this phrase “leveraging your mountains” for several months now after listening to a message from one of my heroes, Christine Caine. The fall of my senior year of college I wrote in a journal about “pioneering.” Traditionally, pioneers were the first people to settle into a territory. I wrote about pioneering the territories of our hearts–the deep places inside of us that we want to avoid that have been largely unsettled and broken, in need of wholeness and life.

We are all people “in process” and pioneering is about leaning in and embracing that process rather than avoiding it. It’s a journey all of us are on. Some are in different places than others, but it is never about arriving at a destination. Wholeness is not something to achieve, but something to grow in.

The pilgrimage to wholeness is more like climbing mountains than it is a walk in the park. Climbing a mountain is tough work! However, if we cooperate with God, we can learn how to leverage our mountains in ways that produce valuable outcomes for us personally as well as for the people around us. The following is what I’ve been learning about navigating my own mountain.

6 Keys to Leveraging Your Mountains:

1. Identify Your Mountain

What process is God inviting you to lean into? There is something about “calling a spade a spade.” Call it what it is: unforgiveness, jealousy, fear, compromise, loneliness, etc. We can’t stay where we are. The moment we stop growing, we start dying. Whatever it is, own it and confront it head-on instead of pretending it’s something it’s not.

Kelly and me at the summit of Mt. Eddy.

Kelly and me at the summit of Mt. Eddy.

2. Don’t Go Alone

Ecclesiastes 4:9-12

Kelly and I recently summited our first peak together! It was a team effort. After a cold, stormy night in a tent half-way up Mt. Eddy, Kelly was ready to give up on our quest, but I was unrelenting. When I’m determined, there isn’t much that can stop me. There were also moments when I needed Kelly to lend me his strength, whether it was to navigate an obstacle or provide protection from violent winds. We need to have people around us encouraging us when we want to give up and lending us strength and protection to overcome the obstacles along the way. Choose vulnerability and invite people into your process.

3. Pursue Wise Counsel

Proverbs 11:14

I asked for some guidance from a friend who’d climbed Mt. Eddy previously, and it helped us prepare for, and thus better enjoy, the hike. Fortunately, most of us don’t have to climb the Kilamanjaros and Everests of life. Typically we’ll embrace the well-traveled trails up Mt. Eddy such as our search for identity, purpose, significance, confidence, courage, etc. We each experience the same mountains differently so you will gain your own insights, but the wisdom from others who have gone before us can help us navigate it as well. Heed the advice of wise counsel.

4. Get enough Fuel, Hydration, and Rest

Isaiah 40:28-31, Nehemiah 8:10, Psalm 16:11, Proverbs 17:22

We will not get far on a mountain without sufficient rest, water, and food. Jesus meets the soul’s thirst with the water of life. Don’t neglect intimate moments with God in His word, in worship, and in prayer. We may get tired and weary while we climb our proverbial mountains, but we must remember joy! Joy is where we derive our strength, and His presence is full of it. “A cheerful heart is good medicine.” Don’t get so consumed in your wrestling that you forget about joy. In a practical sense, do things that make you happy. For me, stupid cat videos usually do the trick when I need a quick laugh 🙂

5. Maintain an Outward Focus and Vision

Isaiah 52:7

We encountered several different people on our hike down the mountain. “You’re almost there! The view is beautiful from the top!” Despite our aching muscles, we were able to offer them something encouraging and hopeful. You can let your pain embitter you towards others or let it produce something constructive to offer to the people around you. One of the purposes of your process is to bring hope to others. Don’t lose sight of the goal. Vision gives pain a purpose.

6. Climb from a Position of Victory

Romans 8:31-39

God has already equipped you with everything you need to successfully navigate the mountains in your life. He is your victory. He is for you! He’s a good dad Who believes in you. He’s deeply motivated to act on your behalf. Lean into the process. The freedom and victory you will feel at the top is indescribable! Trust Him and He’ll take you on the adventure of a lifetime!

– Samantha Ham

Lessons from the Cross on Forgiveness

This summer, a couple of situations have been ongoing in my life which make me feel that I am being treated in an undignified and disloyal manner. And up until this summer, I have not considered myself to be a person who is slow to forgive, mostly because it is hard to make me genuinely upset. However, these situations have perpetuated on the order of months, and so I caved and became truly angered. So when I fell from extending grace to those who have wronged me, I fell hard.

In this post, I want to share with you some of the prideful justifications I grasped for in my anger–justifications for why I should be exempt from forgiving the people who have wronged me. And in response, I want to explore how Jesus’ work on the cross completely demolishes every excuse used to hinder forgiveness.

Justification 1– Being a Christ follower does not necessarily mean that I must forgive.

As offense after offense came my way this summer, I started to think that at a certain point, hope of forgiveness could be abandoned because of the sheer amount of wrongs done to me. That is, I felt that Jesus’ endorsement of forgiveness was just that–an endorsement–and could be done away with if I was crushed under the ever-growing weight of offenses. However, when I considered what Jesus went through on the cross, it became more and more absurd for me to think of prolong forgiveness.

Prophesying of Jesus’ death, Isaiah paints a good picture of what Jesus had to go through on the cross. Jesus was “despised and rejected by men,” “pierced because of our transgressions and crushed because of our iniquities,“ (Isaiah 53:3-5). It is safe to say that my situation is just a small shadow compared to what Jesus was up against. Yet Jesus chose to forgive the very people who were still in sin against him. What could possibly motivate Jesus to pay our well-earned punishment? Romans 5:8 tells us:

But God proves His own love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us!”

In the same way that Jesus’ death proves his love for us, it also proves just how serious he is about forgiveness. Jesus did not merely endorse forgiveness, instead he wholeheartedly endorsed it by the giving of his life. The cross speaks to us not in words, but by demonstration. It says that if we are to be like Jesus, then we must forgive unconditionally, just as our savior did for us. So Jesus, being the good example, shows that no weight of circumstances is too much to overcome. And by living out that message by dying on the cross, Jesus strongly compels me–demands me– to forgive no matter what.

Justification 2– Jesus would not passively endure the same thing that I am going through–he would stand up for himself.

In the times where I was being wronged by those around me, my sense of dignity and self-worth overwhelmed me at times–telling me to stick up for myself and to no longer passively bear wrongs done to me. In sticking up for myself, the hope was that I would put an end to the wrongs and vindicate myself. I felt justified in feeling this way, thinking that even Jesus would not suffer that anybody endure through being treated in a degrading manner.

But when I looked at Jesus’ example, I found that He endured all things, not just the easy things. When Jesus was brought before Pilate by the hand of the Pharisees in Matthew 27:14, Jesus silently endured and, “didn’t answer [Pilate] on even one charge.” Jesus knew that conviction on the charges against him meant death. Jesus had a lot more to lose than dignity, but it was his very life on the line.

Jesus made no attempt to stand up for himself. Jesus’ actions show how he esteemed the dignity of his flesh against his divine purpose. Jesus died to his own fleshly desires, and in doing so, models to us that we ought to die to any sense of dignity within ourselves. So we see that following Jesus’ example means dying to our old sense of dignity rooted in self and living in the dignity of being obedient to Jesus, who is most glorified (Romans 6:6).

Justification 3– Before I forgive, my offenders must know how they have wronged me.

When I think of forgiving others, I think of the times where my brother and I would fight when we were little. At some point our mother would intervene and distribute punishment as needed. But first, she would make my brother and I hug and say, “I love you and I forgive you.” In my mind, forgiveness existed in this context: disclosure the wrongs in order to make amends with the person who has done you wrong.

Yet, Jesus brings forgiveness into a different context. As Jesus hung on the cross with the very people who hated him below, Jesus had every opportunity to point out their wrongdoings. However, Jesus leads by example, as Luke 23:34a illustrates:

Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”

Instead of confronting those who put him to death, Jesus forgave them by bringing his act of forgiveness into the context of his relationship with God. Jesus’ actions speak for themselves, demonstrating that nobody but you and God are needed in order to forgive.

Going forward, I hope you can learn from my bad example of forgiveness as well as emulate Jesus’ good example. Therefore, look to Jesus as the model of forgiveness in everything. Even when it doesn’t seem right, remember that the love of Jesus compels you to forgive, that Jesus calls us to die to our dignity in order to live in his glory and that God is the only context needed for forgiveness.

-Mark Alatalo

God’s Sovereignty

Hey, Chi Alphites! I hope the summer has been treating you all well. I want to dive right into an issue that’s been a part of my life and many other college students’ lives: loneliness.

It has been a constant issue throughout my teenage and early adult years. This topic has been in my heart this summer, specifically because of what I went through last summer.

Summer of last year, I went through the loneliest period of time I’ve ever knowingly been through in my life. All of my close friends were studying abroad, away on vacation, counseling at camp, or working in another city and, on top of that, my family worked while I was off of work and vice versa. I felt completely alone. For those two weeks, I felt stuck as I made my friends’ house my home, taking care of it while they were away. It brought out feelings of worthlessness and despair for me.

In that time, I would either work or sit around the house and try to keep myself entertained. For some of you, that may be similar to your experience this summer. Though, I hope and would assume that most of you are around friends and family plenty this summer, which is great!

The reason I share this story and talk about loneliness is to allude to something bigger. I want to present the idea that God knows exactly where we are at all times, be it lonely and broken or joyful and optimistic. He sees you, He understands you and your situation, and He wants to constantly appeal to your heart. Luke 12:6-7 says,

Are not five sparrows sold for two cents? Yet not one of them is forgotten before God. Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Do not fear; you are more valuable than many sparrows.”

We are valuable in God’s eyes, despite our shortcomings, despite our current situation.

In my loneliness, God saw my situation and still desired my heart. He did not put me in that situation but rather looked to bring me out of it, changed and with a better understanding.

Towards the end of those two weeks, I began to read the book of Job. Job went through a number of trials and his own bout of isolation. What we see is that God knew everything, all that Job was to endure, while Job was unaware of what was behind the scenes. God did not stop these tragedies that were to happen to Job but, in fact, allowed them to happen to him. Read the book of Job to see so yourself!

C.S. Lewis sums it up well:

God allows us to experience the low points of life in order to teach us lessons that we could learn in no other way.”

The devil does not sneak around while God is unaware. God sees the troubles in our lives and has set limits on them, beyond which Satan cannot go. In our trials, God desires that we grow through them and trust in His will throughout them. In James 1:2-4, it describes trials and temptations and says,

 Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”

As I was brought out of my loneliness, I was able to realize how important people are in my life and experienced God’s sovereignty in an incredible way. From the trials Job faced, he was able to know God in a much deeper, profound way.

Perhaps you’re feeling lonely like I was, be it because of a lack of a romantic relationship, from moving away from friends for the summer, or something entirely different. Perhaps you’re currently feeling broken or hurt for a separate reason.

I do not know where you are at right now. The good news is that GOD DOES.

Whatever you’re currently going through, I want to encourage you with the fact that God is in control, he sees you and has not left you. He values you and, because of that fact, He seeks to guide you towards excellence and righteousness. God can allow us to feel pain and to struggle only to increase our faith and make us mature and complete, not lacking anything.

Take your struggles, doubts, and fears to God and He’ll show His divine sovereignty, faithfulness, and love.

– Connor Fisher

Learning From David: Faithfulness in Obscurity

Lots of things about summer are great: warm weather, campfires, a break from school. But there can be many tough things to deal with too. Some of you might be away from friends, adjusting to a new routine, or spending most of your time at a mind-numbing job. I’ve noticed that it can be easy to let summer slide by while looking forward to more exciting things to come like new classes, reconnecting with friends, and Chi Alpha!

I think God cares about this “boring” time and teaches us about it in the Bible. Check this out:

In the Old Testament, before David became king of Israel he worked as a shepherd for his father. I don’t really know much about being a shepherd, but I imagine there would be a lot of free time. Watching sheep eat grass doesn’t sound very involved, or exciting either. As boring as being a shepherd may sound, the Bible shows us that David didn’t despise this time, but chose to make the most of it.

While David was sitting alone in a field watching sheep a man named Saul was ruling as king over Israel. To make a long story short, King Saul wasn’t doing a very good job. He was self-centered, insincere, and didn’t take God seriously. (You can read 1 Samuel chapters 9-15 for a more detailed account of how this all worked out.) Eventually God decided that Saul was no longer fit to be king at all. Someone else, someone more fit to be king, would take his place.

The Lord has sought out a man after his own heart,” the prophet Samuel says to Saul, “Because you did not keep what the Lord commanded you.”

This man after God’s heart was David. And so it’s here we realize that God was paying attention to David during that boring time while he was tending sheep. It wasn’t David’s previous employment or resume that mattered most to God, but his heart. 1 Samuel 16:7 says,

The Lord doesn’t see things the way you see them. People judge by outward appearance but the Lord looks at the heart.”

Sometimes we wait for that one experience to ignite our passion for God, but the way to be set ablaze is in the day-by-day choices we make to pursue him. David knew this and he lived it out. Long before he ever dreamed he would become king he set his heart to follow God in the midst of the mundane. This is what made him great.

I encourage you to use your boring time this summer to pursue God with everything you have. Be a woman or man after God’s heart today.

-John Alatalo

WHAT IS IN YOU?

Take a look around you. Yes, right now. What do you see as you survey your surroundings? Not the physical world but rather what is happening in your life. Sometimes it’s hard to take a step back and look at what you’re doing and see the bigger picture, the Kingdom picture that God has graciously welcomed us into. For me, it’s even harder to see my individual part in this grand, divine mosaic. But, starting an internal dialogue with yourself and God in the midst of everyday will make the journey so much clearer wherever you end up.

What is in you is God-breathed. He designed you personally to have within you value to be offered to the world around you. Are we tapping into the massive reservoir God has placed inside of us through His Spirit? Jesus was big on water imagery, for good reason. He once yelled in the packed Temple courtyard to a crowd of Jews,

Anyone who believes in me will have streams of living water flowing out from within them” (John 7:38).

To the tribes of nomadic, desert-dwelling Jews all around, the metaphor of an oasis in the desert was the description of heaven. In fact, the Hebrew word for heaven is Sha-Mayim, which means “place of water.” Jesus was communicating to the crowd that all the power, grace, authority, and beauty of heaven could be inside of them and flow through them.

Whatever you’re doing at this very moment and every day this summer, I challenge you to evaluate your life and what it means to you. The goal is not to answer every question, but to think about your life in a reflective way. Then once you’ve got an idea of what’s going on in your heart and in your mind, turn to Scripture and prayer as tools to access God’s abounding grace within you.

Water is not stationary; it ebbs and flows as the environment changes around it. We are to realize the living water within use that was not intended to be kept still and dull, but to be flowing like a mighty river, out of us into the Kingdom. God please allow me to see how you have designed me personally. Show me what it is in me that has value to be offered to the world around me.

-Katie Strickland