Finding His Peace, Not Mine

By: Mia Sigmon

It’s pretty easy for me to believe that God exists.  I was raised in a church-attending home, where God has been a part of our daily conversations. This becomes a different story when I ponder the thought of fully believing in Christ.  In John, chapter 14, Jesus offers us HIS peace. He promises this to his disciples when he says, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you.  I do not give to you as the world gives.  Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid” (John 14:27). He speaks this to his disciples as he informs them that he will be leaving for a little while to be with the Father and “prepare a place for [them],” but the disciples have a hard time understanding and believing in Jesus’ words because they think they have not seen the father (John 14:4-5).  Jesus reminds, however, that He is in the Father and the Father is in Him.  He has to leave, so that the disciples can practice faith and better glorify him.  The most challenging thing about faith is that it requires us to believe even when we cannot see.

Last year, as a freshman, I attended faith-based organizations like CRU and, on occasion, CAM because I believe that God exists.  I also wanted to find peace and comfort in being known and being loved by others.  I was searching for comfort in this world.  I faced many challenges and struggled to feel God’s presence both in and around me.  This year has been quite different.  I decided to join the leadership team with CAM, at first because I felt that it would help me fit in and feel comfortable.  I thought that having a leadership role would fulfill me because then I would be known, seen, and noticed.  I needed to find a sense of belongingness and while this indeed happened, this is not why I lead now.  I lead because I want to love.  I’m here because I believe Christ is “the way and the truth and the life” (John 14:6). I am grateful for how this year has allowed me to grow.  Here’s the thing though: At times I still fear; I still doubt; I still have trouble pausing in my day to reflect on Christ.  And I wonder why the heck it is so hard for me to put my full trust in God.  If we believe Jesus exists and we read His word where he clearly tells us that he is with us and that we should not be afraid, why do we still fear?

Entering college, I searched for connection yet continued to feel lonely.  I chose to go to MATC and live at home for the first two years of college.  This was not easy for me because it’s not the norm.  It’s not exactly the status quo.  It carries no clout.  Looking back, I know this was the right decision for me.  I have seen God in this journey and have grown closer to him as a result.

Now people ask me about how I feel about going to UW Whitewater in the fall and for the longest time, my answer has been, “I don’t know.  I’m not excited right now.  I’m just nervous.”  I was nervous because I was afraid of having to start over again.  I was afraid of feeling lonely again.  I was afraid of being uncomfortable.

In all of this, God has been by my side.  Yet, I’ve been ignoring him.  God says I love you and I give you “my peace”…I have been saying I love you too, but I’m not sure I trust you.  Every time I worry and fear, I am saying to God, I don’t trust you.

I wasn’t trusting God with my life because it’s so easy to fall in the trap of finding strength in worldly things.

Everyday, more and more, God has been teaching me that it’s not in this world that I should be searching for strength and answers but it’s in Him.  Believing in Christ takes commitment and effort.  Jesus did not promise us that our lives here on Earth would be easy, but he promised us His peace if we remain in him as he has remained in us (John 15:4-5).  When you place your faith and trust in Jesus Christ, you will never be alone.  Even when you don’t recognize it, Jesus is there for you in the highest of the highs and the lowest of the lows and everything in between. Jesus says, come to me; believe in me; and receive me.  Throughout my journey with Christ, he has been using my life experiences to pull me closer to him and he’s been preparing my heart to read his truth and hear it, absorb it. He works this way in all of us.  He continuously opens our hearts to hear his words, “I am in my father, and you are in me, and I am in you” (John 14:20).  God did not leave us; he sent his son, and when Jesus went to be with our father, he sent the Holy Spirit.  I choose to believe and have come to know that he is always present.

 

**I am in no way a writing major of any sort, but I wanted to share with you a little poem I wrote about my walk with God.  It’s short and simple and was fun to write.

 

So…here it is:

 

Church Sleeper

 

I used to be a Church Sleeper

Not exactly eager to hear the preacher

I called myself a Christian but under what condition?

I was treating God as a religion and not thinking about his mission

You see I used to be a Church Sleeper

I didn’t read his word simply because I didn’t think to need his word

Because you see I was already a Christian.

But I was a Church Sleeper

I couldn’t figure out why I wasn’t satisfied

I cried out in prayer, always asking God to do things for me

Not stopping to see who He is

I struggled to find connection while I strived to find perfection

But here’s the lesson: there is no such thing as perfection in the human race but there is a thing called grace, God’s grace

You see Jesus sees us

God woke me up

I am in awe of him because there is no flaw in him

I am awake

Not only do I want to hear, I want to listen because I want to fulfill his mission

Not as a Christian but as a Christ follower

In every hour I am wide awake, living to pursue his mission

 

Faith IS…[Pt 2]

By: Danny Buck

Christ Is

“Why then do you accuse me of blasphemy because I said, ‘I am God’s Son?’ Do not believe me unless I do the works of my Father. But if I do them, even though you do not believe me, believe the works, that you may know and understand that the Father is in me, and I in the Father.” –John 10

Whenever I think of faith this way, it at first leaves me terrified. My life lacks it. I am continually tempted either into apathy about the current moment or into a far easier career path for the future.

Thankfully, as Christ perfectly loved all of mankind, so too did he perfectly have faith in His Father. In the above scripture, Christ is standing in the temple surrounded by angry religious leaders with stones in their hands—and they don’t have stones with the intent of building a nice little stone memorial. While still in their presence, he declares boldly his abstract identity (much like we declare with our mouths our Faith). I am divine, he declares. But he then tells them that this identity is made manifest in the real world through action. “Believe the works” as I make divinity incarnate with my very actions. As the one true Son of God, he could sit back in this perfect, incarnate divinity and drink coffee, but he doesn’t. He trusts Father and goes forth proclaiming the Gospel, healing the sick, and standing up to injustice.

In this chapter, He eventually escapes the temple and leaves Jerusalem only to go back a few days later. Do we trust God enough with our lives to act similarly? Do return to difficult, dangerous, risky situations by the call of God?

Honestly, most of the time I don’t. But Christ chose to die not only for my lack of love, but also for my lack of faith. As his death makes up for my sins, so too does it make up for my lack of Faith. And remember, it only takes a faith the size of a mustard seed.

 

Soren Kierkegaard, a Christian Philosopher, spends a long time in his book ‘Works of Love’ musing over the command: “You shall love.” It is a command to go and do, he writes; we do not simply exist as a neighbor, but must go and become one to the lost, lonely, outcast, and downtrodden. It is not enough to love with our heart, but we must act. Let us make it the same for faith. When Jesus says: “Believe in me” let us do it with our very lives. Let us become Christians not just by an ascent to belief in our minds, but rather let us make it true with our lives.

Faith IS… [part 1]

By: Danny Buck

Love Is…

“There is no love apart from the deeds of love; no potentiality of love other than that which is manifested in loving; there is no genius other than that which is expressed in works of art.” -Jean-Paul Sartre

I begin with a quote from a lecture given in 1946 by a renowned atheist because it is, paradoxically, an undeniably Christian sentiment; one that modern evangelicals actually bruit with pride. It rephrases—in unnecessarily dense language, yes—the modern adage that love is not a feeling, but an action.

A later example he gives to expound on his point centers around courage. A man can sit on his couch and ponder great deeds, but none are courage until the man (or woman) actually acts.

It is the same with love. I can think as many romantic thoughts as I want about my girlfriend, but they remain thoughts and emotions, passing sentiments only, until they manifest into real action. I can imagine grabbing a drink and hashing through some of life’s difficulties with my roommate, but that remains in my imagination, no actual love, until I grab him, buy him a beer, and ask him how he’s doing. Feelings and passions are not love. Actions are love.

I begin this short little blog post with this argument about love, because it is something we all already agree on. It is not revolutionary. It is biblical. Jesus was love and love is this: that he died for us, an action. We are all ready and willing to accept love as action and yet we leave Faith to be something abstract. It is something only to be felt and thought about. Faith left this way, I would argue, is a sorry thing.

 

Faith is…

Take a young driver. They have recently completed a driver’s ed course and they took it very seriously. They can tell you in great detail about how to drive, the function of the regulator within the engine, the stopping distance of a car, how to accurately change lanes, and the response time of the nearest ambulance. And yet they have never actually driven a car.

I’ll return to this analogy in a bit, but for now perhaps a short narrative from my own life would exemplify my point best. Right now I am a student teacher. Everyday I show up to work and instruct a diverse classroom of youngsters. However, on my breaks I spend my time surfing the internet for jobs in education.

Currently, I am a rather successful teacher for the demographics of students in my classroom. They are engaged during lessons and come hang out during lunch—a sign that kids like you. As I am searching for jobs, though, a variety of positions in the country, suburbs, and urban settings keep popping up. More than once, though, I have genuinely considered dropping it all and going to work at EPIC.

But that move, that settling into a comfy career, is a lack of faith for me. As a man who called to follow through education, to settle is to not follow. When I consider working in an urban school, I shutter because I don’t have faith that God will guide my instruction. If I go to work in the suburbs, I lack faith that God will make use of my work in an affluent environment. And so I am tempted to run. I am tempted to sit around putting off this step until I have read enough educational literature to ensure I can pull this off by my own merits. I am tempted by other jobs in which I know I will be successful.

Lets return to the analogy of the car. The man is not a driver. He is the anxious man who cannot act, who cannot bring himself to an action of faith. Although he can tell you in detail every aspect of the car and will tell you with his mouth that he trusts it, his faith in that car in nothing until he drives it. Until he experiences the slick of an icy road or must drive through gale force winds to his destination and chooses to keep going, until then his faith is but a passing thought.

When called to be disciples, Jesus begins not with believe, but with follow. It is this call and decision to follow in this world that is faith, not an intellectual ascent. Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a pastor who fought the Nazi regime, says: “the disciple is dragged out of his relative security into a life of absolute insecurity.” It is here that we find faith. Only when we experience the troubles of this real world and continue forward, trusting in God, do we develop and express faith. Only then can we learn to have faith in God for our very lives.

Simply acting, though, does not guarantee faith. Peter exemplifies this little paradox well when he was called out onto the water. Although he was already a disciple, he was called again to follow. Jesus commanded him to have faith and take a step onto the water, into uncertainty. And he followed. So why does he sink and why does Christ seem to suggest that Peter didn’t have faith?

He was afraid. Like someone who follows the career path to which they are called, but wakes up every day still scared they will be a failure. They follow Christ’s command, but they have not chosen to have faith that he will watch over their life. Scared he will either leave them or lead them into darkness. And so Peter sank.

Read John Chapter 10

Part II coming soon! How love and faith impact who Christ IS.

Radical Simplicity

By: Amanda Samuel (aka Lil’ Mandy)

I spent the last week in Jacksonville, Florida working with CAM and 2nd Mile ministries, a Christian community development organization that works to see the Gospel transform lives within the Brentwood neighborhood. If you’ve ever looked at certain people and thought, “There. That’s it, that’s what Christianity is”, that’s how I feel about the people that work at 2nd Mile. They live out the Gospel in a tangibly needed way, and it’s an incredible opportunity to partner with them for at least one week every year.

As a Christ-follower, it’s easy to go on a trip like this and feel like it’s just another one of those “things that every Christian should do”, right up there with journaling and reading Crazy Love ten times over. But I think in doing this, we tend to make following Jesus a lot more complicated than it actually is.

Don’t get me wrong – I’m not saying missions trip or reading books are irrelevant or unnecessary by any means. I fully believe that we were created to do good works, to proclaim God’s glory out of the grace we’ve been given, and to take part in building the kingdom of God here on earth in any way He allows us to. These things are good, and they are necessary. But I do think that sometimes  these things can cause us to lose focus on the simplicity of the Gospel.

In John 9, Jesus sees a man who has been blind since birth. To be born blind is an uncommon event, and Jesus’ disciples assume that either this man or his parents must have done some terrible sin for him to have had to endure this extreme hardship. Jesus answers,

“Neither this man nor his parents sinned, but this happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life. As long as it is day, we must do the work of him who sent me. Night is coming, when no one can work. While I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” [John 9:3-5]. There are a lot of bold statements in this text, but what exactly does he mean by “we must do the work of him who sent me”?

If you flip back a couple chapters to John 6, we find that the disciples have wondered the same thing. “Then they asked him, ‘What must we do to do the works God requires?’ Jesus answered, “The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.” [John 6:28-29].

I’ll be honest with you. I had to read over this passage multiple times because I thought I was missing something. I cross-referenced it, Googled it, looked up the Greek text behind it. All this in an attempt to make the passage more complex, to make it more “godly”, to make it more relevant; to make it more. Everything in me wants to fight against what this passage is actually saying and break it down into an easy to follow, 5-step process. But the reality is that the radical simplicity of Jesus’ answer forces me to confront my to-do list approach to Christianity and rethink the way I live. The simplicity of Jesus’ answer makes me uncomfortable because it does not fit into a neat little box of my life, and instead requires much more of me than a checklist ever could. It requires me to trust everything I am to the life and teachings of a Jewish carpenter who lived, died, and was raised to life over 2000 years ago and sometimes it’s just much easier to replace that with tangible steps that I can feel good about. But ultimately, that isn’t what it means to do the work of God.

The work of God is this – to believe in the one he sent. That’s it. I have nothing more to add on to this, no deep insight or analysis, because the beauty of the Gospel lies in its simple accessibility to all who would believe. Everything else we do as those who claim to follow Christ should come from believing and trusting that Jesus is who he said he is as the Son of God, the coming Messiah, the risen King.

John Week 2: Fountains

By: Preston Sigmon

Take a moment and look over the following statements…

My life would be so much better if only _________.

If I had ________, then I would be happy.

I will feel much less stressed and anxious when __________.

Now, I have a sneaking suspicion that something happened when you read these statements.  My guess is that you didn’t just read any of those sentences as they were.  Instead, I think that when you read each of those lines, you filled in the blank.  If you didn’t fill in the blank, I would encourage you to look back at those statements again and think about how you would choose to complete them.  Speaking for myself, as I wrote these statements and as I read over them again, my mind easily filled in those blank spaces with my responses.

Maybe you can relate to thoughts like, if I can just make it through school and find a good job, then I’ll be set for life, or all these people that I know are getting married, I hope I can find someone who will make me feel complete and happy and loved.  Maybe you thought, if only I had a million dollars, or if I could just do what I loved for the rest of my life, or if I could just travel wherever I wanted, then I’d be happy, then my life would feel complete.

I think you might be able to see where I’m going with this.  We’re all intelligent people and we’ve had enough life experience to know that those things that we chose to fill in the blanks with earlier; they don’t solve all of our problems.  They don’t give us eternal happiness.  But, that doesn’t stop us from chasing them.  We still idolize celebrities, their fame, their talent, their money, their good looks, and we always seem surprised when we find out they are human and that all of the things that they have, that we want, were not enough to bring them peace and joy and satisfaction in life.

For the many of us who profess to follow Jesus, we know what the answer to our longings should be, but I wonder how many of us can honestly say that we genuinely felt that Jesus was the missing link to those earlier sentences.  I don’t make this point so that we all know how to fill in the blank next time, but I do think that there is something very revealing about the fact that we choose to pursue fullness a thousand different ways before we look to Jesus.

Why do we do that?

I submit to you the idea that we don’t look to Jesus because we don’t know him.  I might also suggest that we don’t know him because we don’t really seek him.  So, how can we follow a God that we don’t know, and how can we get to know that God if we don’t pursue him?  The good news, I believe, is that God knows and pursues us.

In chapter 4 of the gospel of John, Jesus meets a Samaritan woman when she comes to draw water from a well.  This woman has no idea who Jesus is, but of course Jesus is fully aware of that as he says to her, “if you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water” (John 4:10).  Now, it turns out, as is most often the case with Jesus, the conversation going on here is not really about water at all.  If you continue to read through John chapter 4, Jesus confronts this woman about the patterns in her life, exposing the fact that she’s gone through five different husbands and has now moved on to another guy, and it’s at this point that Jesus’s claim about being thirsty and having living water really starts to take shape.  Like the woman at the well, we all have deep spiritual thirsts that we attempt to quench with things that leave us empty and thirsty again.  I wonder how many of us have looked to relationships, or alcohol, or doing good churchy things for ultimate fulfillment.  Whatever that longing is for you, Jesus promises that if we come to him and trust in him, then we will never thirst again.  Do you believe that?  If I’m honest with myself and my life, it’s clear that I struggle with that promise.

The woman at the well came to believe in Jesus as did many more Samaritans who heard her say of Jesus, “he told me everything I ever did”(John 4:39).  Take comfort in the fact that God knows you.  He knows everything you ever did, and he is prepared to give you living water if only you ask him for it.

If only it were really that easy, that’s what I’m thinking to myself right now, but here’s the thing, what would it hurt to ask? and conversely, what do we have to gain from walking away?  I think those two questions are much more profound than they initially might appear, and I think you should take the time to answer those questions when you have the chance.

In the meantime, let’s confront ourselves with the person of Jesus.  Read the accounts of his life and his ministry.  We have them readily available in the new testament of the Bible.  Absorb his teachings, listen to his stories.  Take note when you’re confused and have questions and doubts and move towards that.  Seek answers to your questions.  Express your doubt to others.  Contemplate his crucifixion.  Think about it practically.  Think about it symbolically.  Contemplate his resurrection and do the same.  I think that this is a just taste of what it looks like to seek Jesus, and I think the more we seek him, the more we will get to know him, and the more we get to know him, well…he might just become our fulfillment, our living water, and the person we turn to in order to make our lives complete.

Read John Chapter 4