unitive

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I have a hard time resting. It’s difficult for me to not touch my phone for extended periods of time—it’s something I’m working on.
If I peered behind this compulsion, into my motivations, I’d see lots of things: a desire to be helpful, a need for approval and a fear of letting people down, just to name a few.
So here’s where Jesus continues to help me.

And rising very early in the morning, while it was still dark, he departed and went out to a desolate place, and there he prayed. And Simon and those who were with him searched for him, and they found him and said to him, “Everyone is looking for you.” (Mark 1:35-37)

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I have a hard time resting. It’s difficult for me to not touch my phone for extended periods of time—it’s something I’m working on.

If I peered behind this compulsion, into my motivations, I’d see lots of things: a desire to be helpful, a need for approval and a fear of letting people down, just to name a few.

So here’s where Jesus continues to help me.

And rising very early in the morning, while it was still dark, he departed and went out to a desolate place, and there he prayed. And Simon and those who were with him searched for him, and they found him and said to him, “Everyone is looking for you.” (Mark 1:35-37)

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1. Contemplate your sin in light of God’s grace and contemplate God’s grace in light of your sin.When you contemplate your sin apart from God’s grace you end in despair. When you contemplate God’s grace apart from your sin you fail to see the cost of the cross. When you do both you’ll find yourself overwhelmingly thankful. 2. Remain in Community. Doing life in community can be challenging but it’s crucial. Because we’re relational beings community is inescapable. Even if we check out of church we will end up in community. Also, communities are formative. Every community has certain values and virtues it provokes people to pursue. Remain in the Christ-focused community of the church, it will preserve your soul. 3. Ask your friends about what God is doing in their lifeHas it been a while since someone has asked you “How is your walk?” When you ask that question you are letting them know that it’s OK to talk about Jesus. It might be awkward at first but it’s worth it. This helps to form community and creates accountability—God will use this to preserve your soul. 4. Start tithing (and if you’ve started… give more, or in other directions)We know you only make $30 a year. That’s not the point. It’s a discipline, it has to start some time. If you already tithe find other avenues to give. After all, He’s given you a costly gift. 5. Daily write down things you’re thankful forPsychologists have discovered that we more easily recall times of trauma. That means you might need to do some digging, but there are PLENTY of things to be thankful for. Make a list, daily (James 1:17). 6. Be bold about your faithIs Jesus really king? Are people really dwelling in spiritual death, going the wrong direction with an eternal trajectory? Does Jesus save? YES. Sure it can be awkward but in announcing God’s saving reign we often see that He does indeed reign and He does indeed save. 7. READMaybe you’re tired of the cliche “leaders are readers” but it’s true. But reading isn’t just for leaders. In reading, we put ourselves in a posture of humility—we admit we don’t have all the answers and consult voices that do. This posture of humility, if cultivated can work its way through our life and help preserve the soul.8. Cultivate godly confidence While the world longs for acceptance and validation Christians should not strive. In fact, Christians should be more confident than anyone else—the Christian should live knowing . Not because of what they’ve done, but because of what has been done for them. Let the truth that you are loved fill your life.9. Find a rhythmToo many students live disjointed, random, ‘ping-pong’ ball lives. Start shaping a rhythm to your life. What do you need to provide personal health and a Godward focus? Quiet times? Yes! Exercise? Yes! Prayer? Yes! 10. Confess your sinsWith sin we often have one of two reactions. We laugh it off, “Can you believe I did that?!” Or out of shame, we conceal it. The first reaction dismisses the sin and the second allows the sin to cripple you. There is another option: confession. When you confess your sins to a friend you essentially say, “I am not where I want to be and I need your help.” This build community, creates authenticity, and is a mark of obedience (James 5:19). 11. Go to war While many dismiss language of spiritual warfare (and others seem too interested in it) it remains something the Bible speaks frankly about. The theologian Richard Lovelace writes, “In folk religion, the posture of the Christian towards fallen angels is defensive; in Scripture the church is on the offensive, and the blows it receives from Satan come from a retreating enemy.” Jesus says it this way: “I have given you authority to tread upon serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy; and nothing shall hurt you” (Luke 10:19). You have been given a sword, use it. View Larger


1. Contemplate your sin in light of God’s grace and contemplate God’s grace in light of your sin.
When you contemplate your sin apart from God’s grace you end in despair. When you contemplate God’s grace apart from your sin you fail to see the cost of the cross. When you do both you’ll find yourself overwhelmingly thankful.

2. Remain in Community.
Doing life in community can be challenging but it’s crucial. Because we’re relational beings community is inescapable. Even if we check out of church we will end up in community. Also, communities are formative. Every community has certain values and virtues it provokes people to pursue. Remain in the Christ-focused community of the church, it will preserve your soul.

3. Ask your friends about what God is doing in their life
Has it been a while since someone has asked you “How is your walk?” When you ask that question you are letting them know that it’s OK to talk about Jesus. It might be awkward at first but it’s worth it. This helps to form community and creates accountability—God will use this to preserve your soul. 

4. Start tithing (and if you’ve started… give more, or in other directions)
We know you only make $30 a year. That’s not the point. It’s a discipline, it has to start some time. If you already tithe find other avenues to give. After all, He’s given you a costly gift.

5. Daily write down things you’re thankful for
Psychologists have discovered that we more easily recall times of trauma. That means you might need to do some digging, but there are PLENTY of things to be thankful for. Make a list, daily (James 1:17).

6. Be bold about your faith
Is Jesus really king? Are people really dwelling in spiritual death, going the wrong direction with an eternal trajectory? Does Jesus save? YES. Sure it can be awkward but in announcing God’s saving reign we often see that He does indeed reign and He does indeed save.

7. READ
Maybe you’re tired of the cliche “leaders are readers” but it’s true. But reading isn’t just for leaders. In reading, we put ourselves in a posture of humility—we admit we don’t have all the answers and consult voices that do. This posture of humility, if cultivated can work its way through our life and help preserve the soul.

8. Cultivate godly confidence
While the world longs for acceptance and validation Christians should not strive. In fact, Christians should be more confident than anyone else—the Christian should live knowing . Not because of what they’ve done, but because of what has been done for them. Let the truth that you are loved fill your life.

9. Find a rhythm
Too many students live disjointed, random, ‘ping-pong’ ball lives. Start shaping a rhythm to your life. What do you need to provide personal health and a Godward focus? Quiet times? Yes! Exercise? Yes! Prayer? Yes!

10. Confess your sins
With sin we often have one of two reactions. We laugh it off, “Can you believe I did that?!” Or out of shame, we conceal it. The first reaction dismisses the sin and the second allows the sin to cripple you. There is another option: confession. When you confess your sins to a friend you essentially say, “I am not where I want to be and I need your help.” This build community, creates authenticity, and is a mark of obedience (James 5:19).

11. Go to war
While many dismiss language of spiritual warfare (and others seem too interested in it) it remains something the Bible speaks frankly about. The theologian Richard Lovelace writes, “In folk religion, the posture of the Christian towards fallen angels is defensive; in Scripture the church is on the offensive, and the blows it receives from Satan come from a retreating enemy.” Jesus says it this way: “I have given you authority to tread upon serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy; and nothing shall hurt you” (Luke 10:19). You have been given a sword, use it.

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       Augustine once wrote that “Hope has two daughters, anger and courage.” What he meant was that practicing hope involves an anger at the present state of affairs and the courage to step towards, or lead towards, another possibility—redemption.

This is difficult to practice. People that wander from God’s grace are often resistant to encouragement. Other times we feel awkward talking about “the issue” so we nervously avoid it. Many find themselves bouncing back and forth between avoiding the issue or being too harsh for months at a time.

Below are three ways to actually help:

1. Different Starting Points - Different people start journeying with God at different times, this affects how much time they’ve had to grow. We would never expect a toddler to read War and Peace, it’s amazing if they can read. Be thankful for any growth, encouraging them when you see it!

Others may have been following Christ for a long time but their story is filled with pain and confusion. We have to understand a person’s story because it informs their growth, or lack thereof. For some who grew up in families that didn’t believe in God or were adamantly against the concept of God success is, at first, the mere willingness to stay committed to a Bible study.

Let’s be amazed with what God’s grace has already done, while encouraging glimpses of growth!

2. Tons of Potential - We have to see people through the Gospel and entrust them to the Holy Spirit, we can’t be harsh on them but see what God is doing in them. We can’t see them as the sum of their mistakes because if they are in Christ they are a new creation and are in the process of being renewed (2 Cor. 5:17). When you interact with them interact according to what could be. Still we have to be zealous for their growth in a way that inspires growth, not cripples it.

3. What Could Still Happen to You (Genesis 20, Galatians 6:2) - In Genesis 12 Abraham tells his wife to pretend she’s not his wife to save him. Talk about cowardice. He goes on. He progresses in his faith. But then he does the exact same thing, he got nervous about what would happen to him as he was approaching a city so he told Sarah to pretend she was his sister. You would have thought he’d out-grow his cowardice. That he’d learn to trust more fully in God. Nope.

Paul says “Brothers and sisters, if someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently. But watch yourselves, or you also may be tempted” (Gal. 6:1).

We have an enormous capacity for sin so we should never be prideful with people that get off course. We should always be aware of our own limitations, blind-spots, functional-saviors, and shadows. The wrong context or life situation and a past issue we thought we had put to death might flare up again. Summing up, our attitude should be one of bold-compassion. We should not avoid “the issue” and we should not attack the person.

We should be bold.

We should be compassionate.


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As a pastor I can easily spot the new people before a service. It’s not just that they are sitting alone, they have their phone out. And whether they are fake-texting, surfing a newsfeed, or whatever… they at least seem occupied. 

The phone has become a symbol of community which we grasp in times of social anxiety. Think about it. Your phone lists your contacts, your favorites, it gives you notifications from friends, it has emails for you to read. It tells you, “Sure, you don’t know anyone here and it’s awkward but there is a place where you are loved, just look at your contact list if you want assurance.”

While many have argued that technology causes social anxiety here—at least on the surface—it seems that technology wards off social anxiety (albeit a social anxiety that it may have originally colluded in).

But any benefit it gives ends up being mere avoidance. You’ve recently moved to a new town and instead of meeting someone you are looking wishfully at friends on Facebook, silently wanting ‘home’.

Compare this with Jesus who left the perfect community of the Trinity to be born in a world that did not receive him (Luke  9:53). Now consider this, if you are a Christ-follower God’s Spirit dwells in you. The same Holy Spirit that empowered Jesus’ ministry. The same Holy Spirit that fell on the disciples in Acts 2. That Spirit isn’t a spirit of timidity but of power love and self-discipline (2 Tim. 1:7). 

I could go on, and on. 

When we’re in a socially precarious situation what do we grasp for?

What do you grasp for?

Do you avoid potential community or an opportunity for mission by grabbing for your phone? 

Next time, remember that if you are a Christ-follower, God’s Spirit dwells in you. Don’t reach for your phone reach for a hand and meet someone new, in the coffee shop, the church, the food bank, wherever—the important thing is that you do it. 


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After reading The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe for the first time I had a strange desire to eat turkish delight. I had no idea what it was. I just knew that I wanted it. 

Late at night, after watching a horror movie for the first time, I remember being filled with fear. I knew there wasn’t a homicidal maniac from Texas, with a chainsaw lurching around our house, but the story had affected me. Like the desire for turkish delight, the movie I just watched created a possibility that was not previously there. I felt like a murderer could be waiting, right outside.

Stories shape our desires and fears. They create expectations limiting and creating possibilities. After a few hours you may be able to shake off the fear a horror movie provokes, but escaping the influence of other stories is much harder.

Recently I was talking to a college student wrestling with the questions of faith and God for the first time. During our conversation he said “but how could a person rise from the dead?” I thought of Hamlet’s reply to Horatio’s disbelief, “There is more in heaven and earth than is dreamt of in your philosophy.” But a bigger question loomed behind my quip. How did we get to the place where our rooms are as small as us and our dreams struggle to stretch beyond us?

What if a story had been shaping us… one that was hard to escape…

Imagine growing up and constantly hearing, “there is no God… or if there is, he is very distant.” Imagine growing up reading that sin was not sin but just bad parenting, or bad genes. Imagine growing up hearing that forgetting your mistakes and shame were the only way to escape them.

Many of us have…

Our cultural narratives have become too small and narrow. Or, in other words, we have created stories that reveal our infatuation with the self—our stories are as big and as small as ourselves. We, like Narcissus, have focused on our beauty and cannot see anything else.

As N.T. Wright once said, we “await one who will emerge past the locked doors of a closed epistemology and say ‘touch and believe.’”

It is there that the door will open and you may see what is truly possible. 

Letting God’s Story Shape your Life

  1. Think through how you have been affected by the ‘secular story’.
  2. Spend time praying and reading your Bible. It may sound simplistic but when you enter into the story of scripture you are allowing its story to shape you.
  3. Familiarize yourself with the drama of scripture. Creation (Gen. 1) -> Fall (Gen 3) -> Redemption (Mark 15-16) -> Restoration (Rev. 21). 
  4. Know your place in the story. Read through Romans 8. Pay special attention to the groaning that is mentioned.

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Three Movements to “Calling”

Before we pursue a “calling” in the world we are always first called to the Caller. Before there was an Exodus there was a burning bush, and on (Exodus 3). As Os Guiness says: We are first responsible to the Caller then we are responsible for the calling. 

Many, in our world, seek to live out of their sense of calling without an awareness of the Caller; frustration, damage, and pain often result. Think of a gifted comedian or scientist who seeks to use her gifts divorced from the Giver. Their contribution to the justice, shalom and joy in the world is limited (Romans 14:17). Further, calling detached from the Caller is typically a thing of pride and insecurity—as they strive for self validation. Only when calling is consciously connected to the Caller is there true peace in the pursuit.

All that said, the first movement in discerning calling is that we are…

        

Some stop there. If that happens we end with an individualistic faith, “it’s just me and God.” The Caller does not just call us to Himself, He calls us to community. Paul, after describing a long period of solitude and prayer, tells the Galatians, “I went up to Jerusalem to visit Cephas and remained there with him fifteen days” (Galatians 1:18). While the Gospel that Paul preached did not originate in the minds of people, nor did his calling, he needed community to affirm and embrace his sense of calling. 

After we are called to God we are called to community. It is in community that we can better discern gifts, find support, discipline, mobilize and encourage (literally “put courage into”) each other. This community is, of course, the church. No one is called by God and not called to be part of His people and bride.

        

But we all know of communities that are more like social clubs. When church is a social club mission is demobilized. The calling of the community, the church, is bridge making not fence building. Communities that do not see calling as happening in the world become stodgy and die. So…

       

For more on pursuing a personal sense of calling check out some previous posts I’ve written here (calling link).

When we emphasize the first movement, and not the other two, we end in a private individualistic faith. When we emphasize the second movement, and not the other two, we end in “social club.” When we emphasize our calling in the world, and not the other two, we end in a narcissistic pursuit of our passion. 

In the end we see these three elements of calling not necessarily as ‘stages’ but… interdependent movements, all are representative of a disciple who is passionately pursuing the one who calls, rescues, sustains, and makes all things new.

Do all three movements articulate your life? 

Moving Forward

1. Are you emphasizing one of the “movements” above another? Be on guard against the tendency to under or over value one of the movements. When was the last time you were intentionally involved in community? When was the last time you stepped out in mission?

2. Ask people you are in community with to help you discern or redirect your sense of “particular call” (the top part). What are some ways you can step out on mission this week?

3. Spend some time drawing near to God today, pray through the passage below. 

But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy. 

Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul. Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation.    1 Peter 2:9-12


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What follows is a series titled “in their own words.” We’ll regularly publish Christian college students perspective on a number of topics. The first edition is the on “the most important issue for college age christians”…

IDENTITY

I don’t think that there is any one problem that everyone faces. We each come from unique backgrounds and have different struggles. Each person was crafted by God and is there no one exactly like them. That being said, I do see a common trend in many of the college age Christians. We still seek to find an identity. A problem we first encountered in high school doesn’t simply end with graduation. The thought “I can remake myself in college” is very much in the forefront of our minds both in Christians and non-Christians alike. Although I am a fan of this ideology it can lead to a shipwrecked faith. We desire to reinvent ourselves in college, but it more commonly looks like the world around us is reinventing us.   In our attempts to find our new niche we are exposed and expose ourselves to a plethora of potential destructive forces and try and find our identity. We try putting it in the party scene or in a girl / guy or a host of other problems. We dabble and move our identity around when it should solely be found in Christ. - Oz Pettersen, Jr. Philosophy major

I’ve Arrived! (or have I…)

College! Awesome! Finally you’re on your own and you get to call the shots. You leave behind all you’ve known and gladly embrace the “real world.” And then it happens. You find yourself stranded from all you know and love. Nothing is familiar. No longer do you have the root system that, unbeknownst to you, had been your support all along. Like a cancer, loneliness sets in. Trying to fill the void, you turn to whatever the closest thing is.

Arguably the greatest struggle college students face is loneliness. Coming to college they are uprooted from the support system to which they have grown accustomed; the people they had taken for granted all those years suddenly are not there. Overcome with loneliness one can often focus on little else. Trying to silence these social and emotional hunger pains, students often find themselves trying whatever seems to fit the void best. This can take the form of the party scene, drugs, alcohol, sex… However, beyond these college clichés, students can react to loneliness in other extremes. Rather than attempting to build another social circle in college and risk rejection they bury themselves in their studies. Both extremes, while very different, are detrimental and counterproductive. While obsessing over one’s studies blocks out a great deal of interaction (which would only remind them how much their social life is lacking after all) and the life of the partier has a great deal of interaction, both lack healthy relationships. Either way, the fading spirit goes on unnurtured; the seed of loneliness takes over: binding the heart, starving the soul. Missy Newman, Jr. Music major

TO BE A DISCIPLE… OR NOT

College is a time that allows young people the freedom to do what they want. In the past, their parents have influenced (or made for them) most of their choices. The word college seems almost synonymous with freedom. Young people go from living with rules and expectations, to having no one but themselves to govern their life. In terms of Christianity, this can be an amazing time to flourish in one’s faith. The belief and love of God goes from a spoon-fed, forced relationship to one where the young person can take ownership of their faith and learn to rely solely on God. Unfortunately, the reverse can also be true.  This current generation of 20-somethings is leaving their faith in outstanding numbers. The freedom that the collegiate years offer can easily become a time of experimentation with no accountability. Having no one to hold them accountable, allows young people to experiment with whatever their flesh desires resulting in little to no consequence. Falling victim to the twisted culture of the college lifestyle can pull people away from their faith in the blink of an eye. All of a sudden, the desire for God has been drown out and forgotten. This potentially beautiful time of growth and deepening one’s faith, becomes perverted. College Christians live in this tension every day. With this newfound freedom, they are presented with a choice:  They can pick up their cross and die to themselves in order to follow Christ, or they can live in shallow indulgence constantly seeking pleasure and fulfillment. With no one to influence/guide them, this becomes the most difficult and life-altering division of college freedom. -Brie Morrison, Jr. Communication major

THE MILLENNIAL GENERATION, POTENTIAL AND TRANSFORMATION

Recently I had lunch with some professors from my alma mater discussing international business. One professor, who is from Korea, suggested that Korea’s youth are isolationists and much more selfish than their parents. He went on to claim it is not simply a national problem but a generational problem. In the end it was clear, he saw the millennial generation, my generation, as bent on pleasure and entitlement. Regardless of the accuracy of this sentiment his point was clear: we have some problems. While a lot of ink has been spilt on the potential within the millennial generation… at the end of the day I, for the most part, agree with my old professor. We have issues, or… sin still permeates our life.

As a MIlennial Christian, I must be tranformed by the the renewing of my mind and I must cultivate a desire for continuing transformation, into the likeness of Jesus, by God’s grace. Which means I have to take sin seriously, I can’t rest on my personal potential, or the prophesied potential of my generation. Potential left untended looses it’s potency. That’s something my generation needs to understand. My prayer is that we name sin for what it is (ugly and destructive) and name grace for what it is (beautiful and transformative).  Dannel Fischer, Sr. Economics Major


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Kandice and I haven’t mastered the art of marriage. We still find ourselves traveling around the cul-de-sac of joy and tension. But, over the last eight years, we have grown and learned how to better love each other. What follows is something I have been learning and re-learning.

I hope (and pray) it helps you in your marriage (or future marriage)…

Initiate apology. In the midst of a time of tension it is very easy to see yourself as comprehensively right and your spouse as comprehensively wrong. The problem, as you might imagine, is that your spouse is often experiencing the same thing. This leads to a circus of problems (that’s right circus… growling beasts and deadly stunts). Often we simply wait… and wait… until the problem seems non-existent, until it is something of the past. While in reality it is buried, and will eventually show itself again. The way to actually diffuse the tension is to initiate the apology.  

  Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. (Phil. 2:5-7)

To initiate apology means we loosen our grip on our sense of “right”.

In doing so we, through God’s grace, become more Christ-like and present the way through which our spouse may, also, become more Christ-like. 



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