How Rich is Your Christ?

reese AIX
This summer many of us at Christian Students on Campus have been reading through The All-inclusive Christ. The question that keeps coming to mind as I read through this book is one that was asked in the first chapter:

“What kind of Christ do you have, a lamb or a land?”

The land in the Old Testament, as mentioned in earlier posts, is a type a Christ.

  • Just as Christ resurrected on the third day, so did the land appear from the death waters on the third day (Gen. 1: 9-13).
  • Just as the land was good, even “exceedingly good”, so is Christ the only good One in the universe (Num. 14:7; Matt. 19:17).
  • Just as the good land was the goal of God’s people, so is Christ the goal of us believers (Phil. 3:8).
  • And just as the good land was the place where the Jews walked, lived, and fulfilled God’s purpose, so is Christ to us (1 Cor. 3:11; Col. 2:6; 3:4).

The unfortunate thing for Christians like myself is that although Christ is exceedingly good, our experience of Him is usually quite poor. Many know Christ as their Passover Lamb, but few know Him as their life. Many know Christ as their Savior, but few know Him as their land. The goal of God’s calling, however, is not to simply save us from the coming wrath, rather it is to become everything to us.

My Experience

Christ as the Lamb

As a 16 year old, I thoroughly explored the world to enjoy everything it could offer me. Satan had me in his grasp, guiding each and every one of my steps. But hallelujah the Lord Jesus revealed Himself to me!

Someone shared the gospel with me and in their speaking, faith was imparted into my being. I had an instant consciousness of the guilt and weight of my sins upon me, and I immediately felt as though that weight was lifted and put upon the Lord on the cross. The Spirit came into me and I knew the Lord Jesus as the sacrificial Lamb of God who took away my sins. This was the extent of my experience of Christ for the first year of my Christian life.

Christ as the Manna

After my salvation, the one who begot me in the gospel (1 Cor. 4:15) told me to read the Bible every morning. Not growing up in a Christian household, I read all the classic Sunday school Bible stories for the first time. I starkly remember first reading about David and Goliath thinking, “Wow! They should make a movie out of this! This story is awesome!” The first year of my Christian life was characterized by this type of discovery and familiarization with the stories of the Bible.

Something changed going into my senior year of high school. I began slowing down and considering verses in a more intimate way. I recall spending almost a month in 2 Corinthians 4, enjoying every verse and meditating over it for hours. The Bible changed for me that year, and I can truly testify and say it became to me the joy and gladness of my heart (Jer. 15:16). I then first experienced Christ as the heavenly manna (Jn. 6:31, 33, 57, 63).

Christ as the Land

When I came to college, I met Christian Students on Campus and my Christian life radically changed. Some brothers in Christ told me that I have a spirit in which dwells the Holy Spirit. With their help, I’ve been learning how to turn to my spirit and enjoy the indwelling Christ in many rich ways.

At 16, I applied the blood to my doorpost; at 17, I crossed the Red Sea and entered into the wilderness, enjoying the heavenly manna as my supply; at 18, I entered into the good land and discovered that Christ is inexhaustibly rich! While I’ve only experienced this to a small extent, I’ve gotten a taste of the unsearchable One and am inspired to search and seek for the rest of my life.

Back to the Question

“What kind of Christ do you have?”

The Bible tells us that Christ is unsearchably rich (Eph. 3:8). The Lord has a breadth, length, height and depth that require all the saints to apprehend (v.18). He desires to be our life and the very sphere that we walk in (Col. 3:4; 2:6).

We’ve been reading about how rich Christ is in His spaciousness, His ascendancy, and His unsearchable riches as the water, the food, and even the minerals. While my experience of Christ is still quite small, I’m encouraged by the experiences and testimonies found in this book. I have a wonderful Christ whose riches I have barely begun to enjoy.

May we all be like Paul and press on to gain more of Christ:

But moreover I also count all things to be loss on account of the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, on account of whom I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as refuse that I may gain Christ.

By: Reese Walling

Far Above All in Christ

far above all

Before the summer reading, I had never heard of the term “all-inclusive Christ”. The word inclusive is defined as, “including a great deal, or encompassing everything concerned; comprehensive”. As I read this definition, I thought, “How can this be applied to God and His purpose?” Being a part of CSOC my freshman year has already expanded my knowledge and understanding of how God has an eternal purpose and how it is our responsibility as His children and believers to see that His eternal purpose comes to pass, but we cannot do that by our own mortal power and we need the guidance of Christ to be helpful God’s eternal purpose. From my perspective, the “all-inclusive Christ” is God in everything, and everything being from God (Col. 3:16), in other words, “Christ is the reality of everything to us.”

What is the land?

Growing up reading the Bible, I knew that there was mention of “the land” throughout the Old Testament, but I did not fully understand what the land stood for.

Ezekiel 34:14 says,

I will feed them with good pasture, and their dwelling place will be upon the mountains of the heights of Israel; there they will lie down in a good dwelling place, and on rich pasture they will feed upon the mountains of Israel.

God is our source, our rest, and our peace; therefore, Christ can be typified as a type of land. The land God hopes for us to attain is just another version of Himself.

Our Lofty Position in Christ

The first few chapters of the “The All-Inclusive Christ” touch on the transcendency, or ascension, of Christ. Christ’s resurrection shows how He overcame death and ascended to the heavens at the right hand of God. The mountainous land of Canaan represents Christ’s lofty placement above earth and in the heavens. Part of me felt when reading this that Christ’s placement is too high for me, an earthly being, to experience. But the amazing thing is that as born-again believers, we are in the ascended Christ (Eph. 2:6), and we can contact Him in our ordinary living to maintain our lofty position, far above all that would depress or trouble us.

Calling on the Lord to Experience His Ascendancy

Enduring troubles can sometimes cause our spirit to weaken. We may be looking to the world for some sort of fulfillment, or try to fix our situation alone, probably forgetting that we have a Father we are free to call on (Psa. 145:18), and who is above any earthly situation (Isa. 55:8-9).

This past semester I had a science class that I found so challenging, I almost considered dropping the course. No matter how much I studied, it just seemed like things would not click, and I became frustrated with myself. I knew I was a smart student and I was capable of doing well, but as time passed the class became more challenging. Eventually I noticed that in the midst of all my worry, I had not invited God into my situation. So, I decided to call on Him. I called on Him in the practical times when I just sat in class, whispering “Oh, Lord Jesus” under my breath, or when I was studying in my dorm I just prayed “Lord, be with me during this time.” It was in those ordinary moments that I felt the most at peace about my situation.

I had to come to the realization that Christ is higher than all my current problems and there are no circumstances that are too hard for Him to not reign over. However, it is up to me to seek Him and apply His ascending power over my circumstances (Col. 3:1). The land described in Ezekiel 34: 13-15 shows us that when we tap into Christ, we will come to a land of living water, satisfaction, and rest.

Calling upon the Lord is not meant for the formal moments of a meeting only. Christ wants to be included in every moment of your everyday life. I am thankful that we can simply call His name and experience the true power and peace that comes from the ascended Christ. Let’s spend this summer getting to know the world from this lofty perspective—far above all in Christ.

 To know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death, if perhaps I may attain to the out-resurrection from the dead. (Phil. 3:10-11)

By: Allyson Waller

Combating Loneliness

loneliness

You’re standing in the corner of a room filled with conversation and laughter. You see your friends clustered in the middle of the room, surrounded by more people. You see smiles, casual hair flips; you hear words about someone’s dog and someone else’s science class. You mumble something, then hold your breath. Nobody seems to notice. You say it again, louder this time. Nothing. Then, the realization hits you: You are standing completely alone in a room brimming with company.

I have been feeling this way for the last couple of weeks. It’s difficult to explain why I felt so alone when I am constantly around people: my classmates, my roommate, the brothers and sisters. But I may as well have been locked in my room all day by myself. A heavy hollowness was growing inside of me and causing me to feel disconnected from everything and everyone. Because I felt so alone, I didn’t think anybody cared about what I did or didn’t do. I procrastinated on homework more than usual, and I skipped out on home meetings and Bible studies because I “just wasn’t feeling it.”

Then the Lord intervened and reminded me that He cares.

The Lord Cares

1 Peter 5:7 says to “cast all your anxieties on Him, because He cares for you.” I realized that feeling like someone cared was what I had been lacking. Everything, from doing homework to maintaining friendships to reading the Bible, had been feeling like a constant battle. I knew I couldn’t handle it alone, and I was failing. The first step to getting myself back on track was realizing that I didn’t have to fight everyday battles alone.

The Lord not only cares about our battles, but He understands the full breadth of our loneliness because He experienced it firsthand when He was on the earth as a man. But now, He lives in our spirit and He is always a part of us.

By this we know that we abide in Him and He in us, because He has given us of His Spirit. (1 John 4:13)

God stays when others do not.

The Importance of Community

It’s human nature to need other people. It takes many people to build up the church and foster our enjoyment of Christ. We need people to whom we can flow out our enjoyment of Christ and we need people that will pour their Christ into us (Rom 12:4-5). Community is essential in our Christian life. So, if we succumb to loneliness, the cause lies within.

Why do we feel lonely? 

There are two reasons why we may feel lonely.

1. We are depending on the world

We should not depend on things of the world to hold us up entirely. The world has a tendency to change and people are inherently fickle. We have to realize that the only constant we can experience on the earth is supernatural by nature. The only constant is the Lord! In Matthew 28:20, Jesus addresses the disciples and tells them, “I will be with you always, to the end of the age.” Because the mission that Jesus gave the disciples (to make disciples of all the nations) is the same mission we have today, we can be assured that we are included in the “you” that Jesus refers to.

2. We are not functioning as members of Christ’s Body

1 Corinthians 14:6 says “each one has.” If we are not contributing what we have for the building up of the Body of Christ, we will feel alone and isolated from the church. It’s a paradox, but in order to receive the inflow of supply, we ourselves have to flow out (John 7:38). It’s an endless and reciprocal cycle unless something obstructs the flow, like loneliness or isolation. If we are not flowing out, we will not be able to let any life flow in. If we don’t let life flow in, we will ultimately experience spiritual death.

How to Combat Loneliness

I often forget that Jesus is more than just the God in heaven. In John 15:15, He tells us that He calls us friends. So, why do we still get bouts of loneliness? Why can’t we feel the Lord listening to us when the crowd ignores us? How, then, can we feel the Lord?

To acknowledge the Lord’s presence, all we have to do is call on Him. Really, it’s that simple!

He says, “When they call to me, I will answer them” (Psalms 91:15). Our calls are not drowned out by the chatter of the world; they are heard above the noise. When you call, the Lord not only faithfully listens, but answers, too.

The Lord’s friendship isn’t as tangible as a friendship with another person, so it’s easy to question if God is really there. To try to better understand our friendship with the Lord we have to consider the practicalities of a friendship with another person. If you never talk to someone or spend time with them, you wouldn’t be great friends with them or friends at all. The same goes for the Lord! If we don’t spend time with him, we won’t feel His presence with us. Our relationship grows through our calling on the Lord.

I’ve recently tried to spend time with the Lord whenever possible. I’ll chat with Him as I walk to class, or as I’m eating lunch. It can start with a short, honest prayer, like “Lord, this is new for both of us. I want a relationship with you. Help me build that relationship.” Speaking to the Lord is so accessible and it is all we have to do to build our relationship with Him.

The Lord loves us and cares about our battles, and is with us all the time! He wants a relationship with us as much as we need one with Him, and He will answer when we call.

You are precious to Me and… I love you… do not be afraid—I am with you! (Isaiah 43:4-5)

By: Christina Lopez

Fact, Faith, Feeling

fact faith feeling

If you’re anything like me, you don’t tend to wake up with a smile on your face and praise on your lips. Even as a morning person, I struggle to rid myself of the feeling of deadness, disdain for my roommates, and aversion toward my Bible. It’d be fair to say that it takes me a good amount of time to remember that I’m a Christian with a spirit in which dwells the Triune God. Thankfully, the Lord is merciful to help me touch Him and be revived morning by morning.

The problem is, I then have to go to class. Unfortunately, I was dealt a schedule that includes 8am classes every day, and by the time 11am rolls around, my morning revival has been overshadowed with a midday crisis. Why is it that we struggle to maintain the fire in our spirit? I believe the biggest reason is that we live by our feelings.

We wake up in the morning and consider how we feel. We get out of class and are completely numb to the Lord and His people. We are on the bus going home and are just trying to make it to our room so that we can lie down and take a nap. It seems as though our whole day is governed by the feelings we experience in the moment. Thankfully, the Lord has provided a way to escape.

Forever Facts

Within the Bible, there are countless statements or claims of fact. Here are just a few:

The spirit is life because of righteousness. (Rom 8:10)

Know…the surpassing greatness of His power toward us who believe. (Eph 1:18-19)

I am crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but it is Christ who lives in me. (Gal 2:20)

Faithful is He who calls you, who also will do it. (1 Thes 5:24)

These facts are not something that are dependent on our feelings or change according to our present state of being. They are all true solely because God says so. As the famous children’s song goes, “Jesus loves me this I know, for the Bible tells me so.” But how does this help us with our present condition?

Facts Mixed with Faith

There are a few key verses that should be considered:

For this reason I say to you, all things that you pray and ask, believe that you have received them, and you will have them. (Mark 11:24)

For indeed we have had the good news announced to us, even as they also; but the word heard did not profit them, not being mixed together with faith in those who heard. (Heb 4:2)

The facts enumerated in the Bible need to be mixed with faith. Faith is the substantiation of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen (Heb 11:1). It is what allows us to profit from the glorious facts, promises, and truths found in the Word. Our feelings spontaneously follow suit, but that is not something we should relish in.

The Balance Beam Challenge

The following illustration has been a huge help to me:

We can be compared to a man (faith) on a balance beam. Fact is on the beam in front of us and feeling is behind us. As long as we, by faith, keep our eyes ahead of us on the fact, feeling will follow. However, if we look behind us to the feeling, we are bound to lose our balance and fall off.

The truth is simple, yet profound. If we boldly claim the facts of the Word by faith, we don’t have to worry about how we feel, and the Lord will have a way to bring the facts into our experience. However, if we choose to live by our fluctuating feelings, we will be tossed to and fro throughout the day.

Example Text

The facts available for us to claim are absolutely incredible! I’d like to dive a little deeper into one that has been strengthening me these past few days:

The eyes of your heart having been enlightened, that you may know what is the hope of His calling, and what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, and what is the surpassing greatness of His power toward us who believe, according to the operation of the might of His strength, which He caused to operate in Christ in raising Him from the dead and seating Him at His right hand in the heavenlies, far above all rule and authority and power and lordship and every name that is named not only in this age but also in that which is to come; and He subjected all things under His feet and gave Him to be Head over all things to the church. (Eph 1:18-22)

These verses are incredible. Read them slowly, several times and mix them with faith. We have a hope in our calling. There is hope that we will be glorified at the Lord’s return. Before we were hopeless, but now we have a glorious hope. We are also God’s inheritance. Can you believe that? God actually calls us His own inheritance! That means that He must form us into something so glorious that we may be worthy of such a reality. He will do this by His power that is toward us. God has a surpassingly great power that He directs our way. That power is able to raise us from the dead, bring us above all our situations, and allow us to reign in life, just as it did in Christ. Hallelujah!

May we no longer believe our temporal feelings. Let us claim the divine facts that are fully able to brings us out of our feelings and into God. Lord, help us to mix your Word with faith. Teach us to deny the feelings that so easily come and go. Fix our eyes on Jesus, that He might perfect our faith. Lord Jesus we love you!

By: Reese Walling

Let Go and Let God

let go and let god

A few months back, the Lord took something out of my life that was very precious to me at the time. I was clouded with a heavy sense of sadness for a long time. I was so confused as to why God would do something that would leave me feeling so empty and so hurt. However, I soon found myself becoming more involved in the church life. Gradually, I learned that God has an eternal purpose that can only be achieved through us, and this gave me the motivation to fight my problems head on with the Lord on my side rather than feeling like He was against me. I no longer feel sad and grey, the emptiness has been filled, and I feel more supplied than ever with the Lord’s love and grace. It was during this journey that I learned the importance of the phrase “Let Go, Let God.”

What does it mean to “Let Go, Let God”?

It is easy to misread “Let Go, Let God” as motivation to give up and let God take care of all our problems like a magician that can make everything disappear at the snap of His fingers. But the Lord doesn’t work that way. He uses these problems to speak to us and fill us with His grace. The Lord’s grace is so sufficient that it gives us the capability to conquer all our problems with Him by our side. We shouldn’t shift to autopilot during our problems, but allow God to use us as tools for the sake of fulfilling His eternal purpose.

Learning How to “Let Go, Let God”

It’s human nature to love the things in the world and hold on to them so tightly. These things in the world, however, are just stumbling blocks between us and the Lord.

Woe to the world because of its stumbling blocks! For it is inevitable that stumbling blocks come; but woe to that man through whom the stumbling block comes! (Matthew 18:7)

So when the Lord knocks on our door, and tells us to give something up, we shouldn’t be reluctant, for we cannot control the things that we have not created. It is important for us to understand that there are some things that aren’t part of the Lord and that often means we have to give them up. A brother once told me he used to feel as if the Lord was a claw wanting to rip things out of our hearts. This claw created remarkably tough trials that seemed impossible to overcome at the time. It is inevitable that we will all face these trials of faith that will hinder our joy. However, in His infinite wisdom, God allows these trials in order to develop our perseverance and cause us to fix our hopes on the glory that is yet to be revealed. God puts trials into our lives not to punish us, but to strengthen our character. Only under the pain of the trials can our faith and perseverance grow.

Lucky for us, God’s faithfulness should also be of comfort to us in times of trial. “Though He brings grief, He will show compassion, so great is His unfailing love.” (Lamentations 3:32) Thankfully, this brother was able to understand the meaning behind the Lord’s actions, and now sees every loss as a gain for Christ! The Lord doesn’t claw at us like a brute; rather, like a compassionate surgeon, He delicately removes what separates you from Him.

When something doesn’t go how we want it to, our instincts tell us to flee; but our spirit tells us not only to flee, but to pursue. We cannot just run away from our problems without direction. The Lord is our direction, He is the way, so we should forget  the world—flee and pursue Him! Don’t focus on what is taken out of our life; focus on what you are given in replacement! Our Lord is a loving God. He will not give you anything you cannot handle (1 Cor. 10:13). And the most comforting thing is that He won’t take anything out of your life that He cannot replace with something greater—Himself! How reassuring is that!

Faith Amid Storms

Throughout my life as a believer, I have heard this message many times, and I am sure you have too. However, I am writing this because I know, through personal experience, that living out this concept is much more difficult once you are faced with a trial. I advise you to face every hardship head on, because with faith, anything can be done. In Mark 4:35-40, the disciples were on a boat with Jesus and became frightened when the waves began to break into the boat, causing it to fill with water. The disciples asked Jesus, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” Jesus then ceased the wind, calmed the sea, and asked His disciples, “Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?” It is so easy for us to question if the Lord is listening during these moments of friction. But if Jesus can calm a physical storm, imagine what He can do to the storms in our lives, if we only have a little faith.

The Lord uses our struggles to show Himself, that we may turn to Him in these times. This is how He becomes more deeply rooted in us. Anything that confronts us can be conquered because we have a solid foundation of God’s Spirit within us. With His grace we are capable of overcoming and fighting the good fight for the building up of the church, which is God’s goal. We must remember that through all our burdens, the Lord will remain faithful, full of grace, and loving, even when we think He’s not. Most importantly, we must understand that “Letting Go and Letting God” is best lived out by letting go of our self-will and letting God’s will prevail.

By: Taylor Sanchez

Rise and Shine

rise and shine

I woke up to the frantic wailing of my alarm clock. I always feel like my alarm grows slightly more panicked every time I press snooze, and after the seventh time that morning, it was on the verge of hysterics. I pressed stop this time, a silent commitment to actually get out of bed. The list of to-do’s running through my mind made my head spin as I sat up. I decided to do laundry first because I had just bought new detergent pods and I couldn’t wait to use them. (Yes, these are the kinds of things I get excited about.) As I tore open the package of detergent pods, I was confronted by a sad clump of sticky, broken pods swimming in moonlight breeze scented soap. I had been betrayed. Not one pod was salvageable and I had to squeeze as much detergent as I could out of the clump to have enough to wash my load of laundry. It took ten minutes of vigorous scrubbing to free my hands from the glaze of purple detergent.

My Monday morning was going just as Monday mornings usually go: difficult and dull. Back in my dorm room, I began clearing my desk for the marathon of homework I was about to embark on and found my daily devotional book in the clutter. It hadn’t been opened in over a month, but I thought ‘why not?’ and turned to the page for the day.

The devotional opened with two words from Isaiah 60:1 that sharply contrasted with my morning to that point:

Arise, shine. (Isaiah 60:1)

The Lord Wants Us to Shine

The rest of that verse continues like this: “Arise, shine! For your light has come! And the glory of the Lord is risen upon you.” I’m sure we’ve all heard the phrase “Rise and shine!” but it isn’t just a motivational phrase. It comes from the words of the Lord himself! He tells us to shine; He wants us to shine from the moment we wake up!

I know I am not alone when I say that I am not a morning person, and most of my mornings are not “rise and shine” type of mornings. My roommate can attest that it takes me a good half hour to even be approachable, much less “shine.” So why would the Lord want us to shine upon waking if it’s so difficult for many of us? It’s simple: He is the light and the light is in us. Unless we suppress it, it’s almost impossible not to shine with the glory of the Lord!

The Lord is the light

Jesus says this in John 8:12: “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” So, if Jesus is the light, what is our role? The answer is in Matthew 5:16: “In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” Jesus is the light, and we are the means by which that light can shine!

All it takes is a conscious decision to choose Jesus!

The key is to not suppress it. It may be much easier to wake up and focus on the negative and the stressful. However, all it takes is a conscious decision to embrace the light and not shy away from it (John 3:19-28). In other words, all it takes is a conscious decision upon waking up to choose Jesus! This can happen with a simple prayer in the morning, “Lord Jesus, I choose you. Help me walk in the light today!”

When we embrace the light, the Bible says we are in fellowship with one another and the blood of Jesus cleanses us from our sins (1 John 1:7).

But, what is shining?

The dictionary defines shine as a verb, “to give forth or glow with light; shed or cast light.” What first drew me back to the Lord when I came to college was the other believers that I met. I immediately noticed how genuinely welcoming and happy they were. They were walking in the light. They were shining. And I realized that I wanted to shine, too.

Then, the weekend after Freshman Connect, where I was baptized, my parents came into town. I spent hours telling them all about my experience of the Lord in the past month and how tangible Christ had been in my life. In retrospect, I can see how I was shining the Lord’s light that night. My mom even quipped “You’re so happy that you talk more now.”

In essence, to shine is to express the Lord’s light. We must shine the light to others that Jesus shines in us every day. We can cover the light, we can hide the light, but it will always be glowing in us, and it is up to us to share this with other people.

How to Shine

As humans, we are composed of three parts: the body, the soul, and the spirit (1 Thes 5:13). All parts are distinct, and all have a purpose. The purpose of the spirit is to be a home for the Lord. Jesus lives in our spirit (Rom 8:10). Therefore, our spirit is constantly glowing and ebbing with the light of the Lord, whether our body and soul follow suit. Our fundamental goal is to make an opening for the light to shine through to our soul and out through our body.

Our spirit is constantly glowing.

If we let the light through into our soul, it will affect our outlook and decisions.

Letting the Lord into our thoughts and emotions is the most difficult part because it entails giving Him our most personal aspects. However, once we do, the change is inevitable and we will “shine like the brightness of the sky above… like the stars forever and ever” (Dan 12:3). Once the light pierces through our soul, the hard part is over.

Now, the light can ricochet off the walls of your being and out through your body. Your body includes your appearance, expressions, and actions. To shine doesn’t necessarily mean being happy and smiling all the time. We can’t have good days every day, and the Lord knows that. It does mean, however, that you are focusing on light even in the darkness. It means being genuinely and perpetually content, regardless of ephemeral emotions, like the brothers and sisters that I met in the club that helped me understand what the light of the Lord really looks like. We can accomplish this by constantly tapping into our spirit. This can be through prayer, singing, or simply having conversations with the Lord throughout the day.

Even on our worst days, when we don’t feel so great, or we’re tired, or tragic things happen to our laundry detergent pods, we can still shine by tuning into our spirit and touching that light. The smallest opportunity that we give the Lord is all He needs to shine through us. The word shine is used in the Bible 32 times; that’s 32 reminders to express our love for the Lord from the moment we wake up!

For God, who said, ‘Light shall shine out of darkness,’ is the One who has shone in our hearts to give the Light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ. (2 Corinthians 4:6)

The last time “shine” appears in the Bible is in Revelation 21:23: “And the city had no need of the sun, neither of the moon, to shine in it: for the glory of God did lighten it, and the Lamb is the light thereof.”

Until the day comes when the Lord’s light overcomes the need of a sun or a moon, it is up to us to shine the light He provides us in the darkness of the world. It is a constant process of choosing the Lord and a daily process of walking in the light. But when it comes down to it, as Christians, it is all the Lord is asking us to do, and we don’t have to do it on our own. We have Him in us, shining for us, helping us every morning of every day to rise and shine!

By: Christina Lopez

The Experiential Christ

experiential Christ

When I was 16 years old, the Lord Jesus came into my life and dynamically saved me. I say “dynamically” because it took a definite experience of the Spirit of Christ to snatch me from Satan’s grasp. I was living completely in the world, doing everything possible to find joy and pleasure. The Lord, however, graciously came in and let me experience Himself as the true joy and pleasure. In a matter of a few hours, I felt like a completely different person and was asking the guy who preached the gospel to me questions like “what is happening to me?” and “what do I do now?” I felt as though I had just entered a new world.

My new-founded joy and zeal in the Lord remained for a considerable time. I began reading the Bible and discovered the incredible life of Christ in the Gospels, the stories of the Old Testament saints, and the writings of the New Testament apostles. I distinctly remember reading about David and Goliath for the first time and thinking, “Man, someone really needs to make a movie about this! This is incredible!” My friend groups changed from the partiers to the church-goers. My music choices changed from rap to Chris Tomlin. Everything was changing, and I was on fire for Jesus.

Fickle feelings

However, that feeling quickly faded. My joy and zeal for the Lord lasted for a few months, but I soon entered into the mundane life of a church-going, Bible-reading, cross-wearing Christian. I longed for that fire that began at my regeneration, but settled for simply learning the Bible, memorizing verses, and gaining a seemingly flawless, systematic, Reformed understanding of the Scriptures. Of course, I had the occasional raising of my hands during worship so that others knew I was still zealous.

After about a year into my Christian life, I met someone who was a part of the charismatic movement. He started talking to me about a living God and an experiential Christ. As he shared with me about not only his salvation experience, but his day-to-day experience of the Spirit, I had the registration that he was describing the Spirit that first enlivened me a year prior. I didn’t realize you could experience Him after initial salvation, and I was attracted. My senior year of high school I started going to this charismatic denomination and entered fully in. I kneeled down at my bed every night expecting an audible voice from heaven to tell me who I should text to encourage. I shamelessly raised my hands, clapped, and occasionally lied down on the floor during worship. While I had many emotional roller-coasters and stimulating, “goose bump experiences” as I like to call them, I never truly figured out how to access this Spirit that saved me two years prior.

Discovering my spirit

Then I came to the University of Texas at Austin, and I stumbled into an event called “Ice-Cream Connect” with Christian Students on Campus. Some brothers shared with me about the three parts of man (1 Thes. 5:13), the distinction between the soul and spirit (Heb. 4:12), and the way to experience God.  While those who have been with the group for a while may consider these elementary, I took them as the answer to all my questions and longings during the past two years. My experience of Christ prior was His joining Himself to my human spirit at regeneration (Jn. 3:3, 6; 1 Cor. 6:17), but my experiences since were mostly in the mind and emotions, which are a part of the soul (Prov. 2:10; S.S. 1:7).

Some brothers revealed to me that I had a part in my being known as my human spirit (Zech. 12:1), which is where I could contact the indwelling Christ. It was as if I was given a heavenly road map that showed me how to “turn on the switch” and touch the Lord. I’ve since been experiencing Christ in a normal, regular way, learning to take the Lord in as food through the Word (Eph. 6:17-18), calling on His name to taste His riches (Rm. 10:13), and many other spiritual practices.

Learning to experience Christ

We all need to recognize that Christ is very much alive and active today. He is the Spirit, accessible, available, and experiential. We are told by Paul to be imitators of him in seeking to gain this living Christ and know the power of His resurrection (Phil. 3:17, 8, 10). This is not something that we learn all at once, but is rather something that we should seek and strive for the rest of our lives to know and experience. Though it may sound abstract or hyper-spiritual, this is the life that we have been called into! This is the mystery and hope of glory that we have as believers (Col. 1:27). God Himself lives inside of us, and He desires to guide us into all the reality (Jn. 16:13).

So as a conclusion, I implore you all to deeply consider what it means that we have a spirit. It is a wonderful truth that has the power to revolutionize your Christian life and experience. We only need to learn to turn to our spirit, where Christ will make Himself real to us. Lord Jesus, teach us to abide in You!

By: Reese Walling

You are Worth It

god-worth

Imagine that you own a very colorful and unique painting. You have had this painting your whole life, and you would like to get it appraised. So you call the painter and a famous art critic to examine the painting. The painter loves his work of art, and he knows it is priceless. However, the critic thinks it is full of flaws and needs immediate changes. He even suggests to you, the owner, to paint over some of the painting. The painter is horrified, and pleads with you not to change a thing, and tries to defend its value. But you ignore the painter, and smear black paint over his masterpiece. Now the painting is nearly unrecognizable.

This is exactly what happens when we assign our self-worth based on the standards set by the world. God, the painter, knows your worth and is determined to remind you of it. But the critic, the enemy, points out all your ‘flaws’ and insists that you need to change. God created a masterpiece; He created us in His image. And He sadly watches as the world tries to devalue His creation. Satan uses the world to change us to match Satan and the world. God designed us to match Him — we do not need to change to match the world. We are the Mona Lisa and the world wants to paint hot pink, caterpillar eyebrows on us.

So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. (Genesis 1:27)

I have found myself questioning my worth lately. And let me tell you, it is not a fun feeling. I often place my self-worth based on the standards set in movies, on Facebook, my grades, and what others think of me. I let the enemy convince me that I am not worthy, and that I am not good enough. If I would only change to match the things of the world then I would be worthy. YEAH RIGHT. I want to match Him, not the world. I realized that my self-worth too often depends on others opinion of me. This leaves me thrown left and right with the ever-changing trends of the world. And even when I determine my own worth, I am left empty and anxious. Our self-worth should not depend on things of this world. Our self-worth should not even depend on what we think of ourselves. Our worth should be completely and utterly dependent on the value God gives us. We have more value than a value meal at McDonalds.

Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? And not one of them is forgotten before God. Why, even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not; you are of more value than many sparrows. (Luke 12:6-7)

Harm

Not feeling “of value” can lead to self-harm. Harm is not valuing ourselves as God does. Harm is treating yourself like the world would treat you. Harm is Satan’s device to devalue God’s creation. We isolate ourselves and dive down a negative thought rabbit hole. Satan is also known as the accuser, and he spends day and night accusing us. He spends day and night trying to convince us that we are awful and that we smell and that no one likes us. Do not indulge in this negative thinking! Dark thoughts are my biggest indulgence, and I am still learning how to fight the enemy’s accusations. My biggest tool is calling on the Lord, and like I have said previously, declaring the facts. Jesus is Lord! I belong to Him! His thoughts are higher than mine! I reject these thoughts! Go to the pit of fire, Satan! After I declare the facts, I eat a brownie, and walk my puppy. Drinking a Dr. Pepper or rowing a boat is also acceptable.

When you harm yourself you are tarnishing God’s perfect creation; you are becoming less like an image of God, and more like an image of the world. The world is a Chanel purse full of cigarette butts. It seems so pretty but when you look inside and really examine it, the world is straight up U-G-L-Y, ugly. You must “Refuse to let the world corrupt you” (James 1:27) and how you see yourself. Satan sneakily uses the world to diminish how we see ourselves. But God’s view of us has never changed. Even when we sin or when we seem far away— He knows our worth. Too often we hang our worth on worldly things, and it leaves us unsatisfied. But if we saw our worth as God does, we would treat ourselves like the precious works of art we are.

Moses

Moses questioned his worth. He was an old man who was bad at public speaking. You could say he was sheepish! Get it? Anyway, God saw his worth. God saw his value in leading the Israelites out of Egypt, and delivering the law to them.

But Moses said to God, Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt? (Exodus 3:11)

I have similar thoughts all the time. Who am I? Who am I that Jesus died for me? Who am I that He has this crazy love for me? I feel so undeserving. But that does not matter because God says we deserve His love. He wants and needs to love us. God has this crazy, unconditional love for us that seems beyond human understanding. But that’s cool, because we just have to enjoy His love and try to love as hard as He does in return.

God answered Him so simply, “I will be with you”. He lives in us— He gives us worth.

God-worth

We should not be concerned with self-worth. Self-worth is something temporary and of this world. The devil uses our self-worth to toy with us. Be concerned with God-worth: how God values us. Your God-worth will only leave you joyous. How we value ourselves changes like Texas weather, but how God values us never falters.

Because you are precious in my eyes, and honored, and I love you, I give men in return for you, peoples in exchange for your life. (Isaiah 43:4)

Think of how much value He gave us on the cross. He died for us! God-worth to infinity! We are hot messes who sin constantly, but He saw the value. He said, they are worth it. They are worth dying on the cross for, and are worth saving. And why would God have spent all that time creating something so-so. He made mountains, rivers, puppies, the whole universe for us! We are worth it to the Creator.

Stop looking to yourself to find your worth. Look at your God-worth. By yourself you are worthless. Look to Him. Look to your companions. Look at His plan. With God our value and worth is eternal, because His plans for us are eternal. He wants us to express Him! He wants to come back to us! He wants us to build up His Church! We are not removed from any part of God’s plan. He needs us. We are so valuable to Him. Looking to your self limits your vision to tomorrow. But looking to God widens your vision to eternity.

Don’t let anyone, especially yourself, treat you as less than God knows you deserve. God loves you. You have value. You have worth that flows into eternity. You are integral to the building up of the Body. Even when the world tells you, you have no worth— remember, God thinks you are worth it.

By: Kolean Gudalj

 

Why Pray?

why pray

I can’t even begin to tell you how many times I am presented with decisions I have to make with little to no idea what I want. This literally ranges from, “Do I want to be a Journalism or Public Relations major?” to “Do I really want to pay an extra $2 for guac on my Chipotle?” Regardless, I can rarely make decisions on my own. Sure, it’s easy to pick up your phone and dial a friend to guide you, but in all reality, we have the Lord to guide us in an instant through prayer. Prayer is the easiest way to connect to the Lord, and the best thing about it is that it is feasible at any given time.

Prayer is arguably one of the most important components in our Christian lives. It is the best way to connect with our Lord. First Timothy 2:8 says “In every place of worship, I want men to pray with holy hands lifted up to God, free from anger and controversy.” We shouldn’t limit our prayer to “morning time” or right before bed; we should learn to pray about everything, everywhere! And one of the best things about prayer is that it always has a different look. Some times we may pray standing up, other times we may be kneeling, but what is significant is the different meaning behind all our prayers. You may ask, why pray? I argue, why not pray? Spending time with the Lord is so significant. Plus, the more time we spend with Him, the more we learn to enjoy and love Him!

Having A Relationship with the Lord 

Believe it or not, the Lord craves a relationship with us. He wants us to confide in Him and love Him.  Luke 10:27 says “‘You must love the LORD your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your strength, and all your mind.” Truthfully, prayer is the best way to have that relationship with the Lord. The Lord is not only our friend; He is our husband (Isaiah 54:5). You disclose your deepest thoughts and concerns to your friends or spouse, and the Lord is no different! Our relationship with Him is intimate, not stiff. Although He knows all, the Lord wants to hear us talk about our thoughts, hopes, and dreams. He simply just wants us to confide in Him because to pray is to touch the Lord. He is our love.

Learning how to pray 

Growing up in a religious family, I have always been surrounded by prayer. My too-big-to-fit-in-one-house family starts and ends our gatherings with prayer and usually call during random times of the day to pray. It’s so special to experience together, but I always feel so intimidated. I never volunteer to say the family prayer because I feel my words aren’t empowering enough. The same goes for praying with the club. All the brothers and sisters have such beautiful things to say. Their words flow so naturally and sound so impactful. On the other hand, my words are equivalent to a six-year-olds. I feel like what I have to say will never be good enough for prayer. Plot twist, y’all. Our vocabulary doesn’t need to be exquisite. The Lord doesn’t listen to the words we say, He listens to what our heart is revealing.

Prayer is simply a conversation with the Lord! Like I said, the Lord is our friend! We wouldn’t talk to our friends in a formal language. Could you imagine that? “Greetings thy companion, thy footwear is sumptuous!” I’m pretty sure if I talked to my friends like that, they would walk away in total confusion, thinking I’m some Shakespearean alien. The same goes for the Lord! No, He won’t walk away from you in Shakespeare fear, but speaking formally to the Lord is not necessary. Additionally, there is no format you have to follow to in order to pray. I recently heard about a prayer acronym, “ACTS.” It is said to be a guideline you must use in order to pray. First, you start with adoration, then confession, follow with thanksgiving, and end with supplication. Sure, all of those are great! But that’s not the only way to connect with our Lord. In all reality, there is no prayer formula! We should just speak frankly and honestly. Simply, the best way to learn is to practice.

The power of prayer 

We have spoken a lot about building this semester at CSOC. The Lord wants to build up His church. But how can He do that? Through us believers! But how do we do it? Through letting Him make home in our hearts. Prayer is the first step to building the church.

Little do we know how powerful prayer is. First Samuel 1 tells the story of Hannah and her longing for a son. For a long period of time, she was ridiculed for not bearing a child until one day she went to a temple and poured her heart out to the Lord and prayed for a son. Finally, the Lord gave her a son. This is a lesson to us believers that speaking from the heart during prayer is so powerful. This is why it is so important to pour out and open our hearts the Lord. Each prayer we give with an open heart opens up a “room” to let Him make home in our heart. This is a simple way we build the church.

Often times, when we ask the Lord for something it takes time. It’s usually not a pray-once-and-receive type of deal. A sister once told me that prayer is sort of like chopping down a tree. At the first swing, the tree doesn’t cut in half; at the very least it only scratches the surface. It will take numerous swings in order to cut the tree down. That’s how our prayer is, we must continue to pray and create this relationship with the Lord. And the coolest thing about prayer is that it not only chops trees, it moves mountains. That’s how powerfully our God acts through our prayer!

how to survive death

How to Survive Death

how to survive death

The last two weeks have been rough. Rough like I didn’t want to get out of bed, and no brownie or walk with Effie could fix my mood. I was blasting Beyoncé and contemplating buying a beanie baby. But I just dyed my hair pink instead. I didn’t want to go to the Sunday meetings, and the idea of seeing anyone in the club made me recoil. No offense guys— I felt like a werewolf the night after a full moon. The enemy was on his game. But Jesus has already won the game, World Series, the whole enchilada.

As Christians, we are not immune from horrible weeks, days, years, and decades. In fact, I think we are more likely to have them, because they are God’s way of growing in us. We are most likely to talk to Him, and ask Him for things when we are miserable and desperate. Obviously we should be talking to Him and loving Him all the time without breaks, but that is often not how it happens. Growing in Him is often painful as our soul-life dies, but as Kirk Cameron would say, that is just Growing Pains.

Here’s some life hacks to get you through rough times when all seems lost. Brought to you by Jesus and the number three.

Call your Companions

God loves to use our companions to deliver us from death. My companions were there last week reporting for duty, ready to support me. They fed me their portion of Christ, and chocolate cake when I was starving and unable to feed myself. When your companions support you with a verse or a text, the Body of Christ is functioning. When I feel awful I usually try to avoid people, because I don’t want to infect them with my poor mood. But the Body suffers when we deny other members from sharing their portion with a member in need. It would be like cutting off blood flow to your big toe. You might think, I’m just the big toe it doesn’t matter if I suffer, but when the big toe is lost then the whole body loses balance. As members of the Body, our individual struggles become everyone’s; we can learn from other’s experiences and be fed by them. The Lord does not want us to handle these situations alone, because these challenges connect us to one another.

For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up! –Ecclesiastes 4:10

Talk to the Lord

No matter what the scenario or situation, no matter if you have doubts— talk to the Lord. You can even tell Him, “I feel like a can of peas, Lord. Save me!” I often just tell Him how mad I am at my life’s situation. Jesus is our BFFE (Best Friend For Eternity). We should tell Him how we feel like we would tell our closest friends.

When the enemy is firing shots left and right, declare the facts. “Jesus is on the Throne”, “Jesus died on the cross for my sins” and “He is coming back for me!” Even declare the day you were baptized, “I was baptized into the Triune God on January 22nd, 2015. I am regenerated into the kingdom of God”. These facts not only put Satan in his place, but they are a great reminder when our mind is full of marshmallows. These declarations anchor our mind to the divine facts and prevent us from drifting off into the open sea of despair. They remind us of how amazing the Lord is, and they prove how the Lord has always taken care of us.  They also widen our individual, and often, narrow vision; this reveals that Jesus is coming back for us. Why would He abandon us now, if He is coming back?

Having the same spirit of faith… we also believe, therefore we also speak. –2 Corinthians 4:13

We Have to Die

God is our solution to every problem in our lives, but sometimes we don’t get the solution overnight. Sometimes we are meant to die (spiritually, of course). DUN-DUN-DUNNNNNN!!! Just kidding. We are meant to die so we can LIVE! As normal Christians, we die and resurrect all the time—it is a spiritual cycle we go through. But He will always bring us out of death to rise again through His resurrection life! When misery seem never-ending, look to John 11:25.

Jesus said to her, I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes into Me, even if he should die, shall live; and every one who lives and believes into Me shall by no means die forever. –John 11:25

We go through this process just as Jesus did, and it is helpful to look at how He handled it, and He was dying for real! Jesus had the heavenly vision every step of the way. He recognized that He had to die, because He saw the Father’s purpose even though the disciples did not. Poor zealous Peter, he did not want Jesus to die. He was confused when Jesus was angry with him for trying to stop the guards from taking Him to the cross. Peter did not see that Jesus’ death was necessary for our salvation, and so that He could enter in us. Peter was thinking about his own grief in that moment; he needed to widen his vision.

Jesus answered and said to him, What I am doing you do not know now, but you will know after these things. –John 13:7

Peter did not have the heavenly vision at that time, but we do! Praise the Lord! Christ died on the cross for all of our sins, and the tomb couldn’t keep Him in! He arose! He was lifted up, and now He is own the throne! And the Lord is coming back for us!  We need to apply this vision to the difficult situations in our lives.

With this heavenly change in perspective, we can push through challenges to arrive at the feet of God. When we feel terrible we have the opportunity to lean on our spiritual foundation, and rely on the Lord. I got through it by simply praying, “Lord, help me enjoy You a little more each day”. And He answered this pray faithfully, and little by little I have returned to meetings and Bible studies with a fresh enjoyment of the Lord.

By: Kolean Gudalj

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