Not the End, but the Beginning.

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Not the End, but the Beginning.

Four days ago, we all jumped out of our vehicles and stood on Minnesota ground once again. Though many tears were shed in those moments, the bittersweet feeling that project was just a dream turned our minds back towards reality. With heads spinning and much processing to be done, we all knew that God gifted us the community we had found in Garden City, South Carolina, but He was now calling us back home to share, grow, and establish further roots into His Word, community, and sharing the Gospel with urgency we have never felt before. Some were excited to share, some not quite sure how they could go about doing that, while others felt the overwhelming weight of anticipation towards sharing with their fallen world, family, friends, and others God put on their minds. Since we all come from different backgrounds, not everyone felt the same way. Despite the emotions, students walked away sharing a memory of the most impactful, loving, and stretching summer of their lives. Though it felt like the end of a beautiful dream for most, the beginning of project's produce is yet to arrive. The end of project is not the end, but just the beginning of what God is about to do with it in our lives.

Here are a few quotes taken from students about how summer training project impacted them:

“Project was extremely impactful for me in many categories. However, if I had to pick one that impacted me more than others, it would be the community project has given me. I formed relationships with brothers and sisters in Christ that are long lasting and Gospel centered. Within a week of leaving project, I already had my community contacting me, informing me that they are praying for me, and showing excitement to hold each other accountable in Christ. I’m excited to grow, as well as evangelize alongside my community this school year.”
-Austin Pavelka, University of Northwestern-St. Paul.

“My head and heart are bewildered, content and heavy all at once. I was challenged and stretched this summer in ways I didn’t know I needed. Jesus showed me more of who He is and His constant pursuit of me! Always chasing after me, relentless! He reminded me how very personal and near and intentional He really is. I couldn’t be more grateful for how Jesus worked and for the incredible people He put in my direction.”
Natalie St. John, Bethel University

“We love because He first loved us. This summer I was reminded with the importance of LOVE again. Jesus died for everyone including me, you, and the non-believers. There’s nothing we can do to change hearts unless we show them the love of Christ and leave God to do the rest. I can’t wait to be back on campus to see how God can use me to love the unloved ones already!”
-Scarlett Swift, St. Cloud State University

“Being at project this summer opened the door for God to give me a whole new perspective on loving people and stewarding my heart. Through His gracious love, the Lord revealed to me my deepest and most internal sins and gave me a community of believers that challenged me in my walk with Jesus. Project was a great tool in establishing habits of a disciple that will last a lifetime.”
-Daniel Fenske, University of Northwestern--St. Paul

“I used to think that God was someone I needed to constantly impress and that I needed to work for His love and His salvation. I learned that there is nothing that I can do that could make Him love me more or less than He already does. I learned how important the gospel truly is and how imperative it is that we share it with everyone possible.”
-Jenn Olson, University of Saint Thomas

“Athletes in Training allowed me to see how selfish I really was. I believed my strength depended on myself and I had to be physically and mentally strong in order to carry my burdens. This summer broke me and made me realize how weak I really am. I held onto the promise for when I am weak, then I am strong—that I can and should be boasting in my failures and weaknesses to glorify God. God’s grace is sufficient and His power is perfected when I fail and have no strength to carry on. I should glorify Him even in my time spent building physical strength”
-Danielle Jibben, University of Northwestern—St. Paul

This summer I fully understood the pursuit God has for my heart. I watched as He uncovered my sin and broke down my walls leaving me fully dependent on Him in every aspect of my life while sweetly reminding me of the Gospel and the freedom I have because of Jesus. I was reminded that He is in every situation right by my side walking with me not just watching over me and I can have hope in His unfailing love no matter the circumstances (Lamentations 3:21-24). I also was shown the importance of Gospel centered community and how we can come alongside and encourage each other as we grow further established in our relationship with the Lord.
-Katelynn Mehrkens, University of Northwestern--St. Paul

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Is Project Even Fun?

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Is Project Even Fun?

After hearing my schedule, my mom once asked me, "Is project even fun?" It took me a couple seconds to process my answer and realize that, to any project outsider, STP's schedule may seem like a roller coaster ride that never seems to slow down, but instead picks up speed. It may seem like all we do is work at Walmart and sit in talks, if we are not working out or evangelizing or eating and sleeping. Reality is, it feels just like that, but in a good way. The extensive structure and impossible alone time definitely increase the wear and tear on our bodies, but that does not mean there are not moments of total joy that come from it. The irony of it is that most of the time we do not know what to do with the free time we get. Often, you will find us under the tent playing Mafia, in the pool, driving to Cook Out or Steak n' Shake, processing information, or (it may be hard to believe) find us buying groceries at Walmart on our day off. Sleep and time off are our most valued commodities. STP may sound like we're always chasing time, but its not all work and sweat. In fact, most of our memories made during our craziest moments where we let fun slip into the picture.

Watch some of the beautiful, fun moments we made this summer in the videos below!

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Ripples

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Ripples

Today, I created a ripple.

This is never the thought that goes through our head at night, is it? Often times, the question is did I change the world today?

We boast about all the huge accomplishments, jobs, activities, and medals we have won. It is easy to talk about the waves we started that impacted the world, or at least our world. 

But how often do we sit back and watch the ripples we make spread? How often do we find joy in seeing the stones we've been casting at the solid surface (someone's hard heart) bounce anywhere but the place we were aiming for?

Yeah, that's right, I'm talking to you.

Ripples. Oddly enough, it sounds so peaceful. 

Yet, we are always surfing out to try and find the biggest wave instead of finding joy in the simplicity of something small. We spend our lives chasing after the waves. Soon, it becomes an addiction to fame--trying to become somebody great. 

We don't realize ripples become waves and sometimes the ripples are more satisfying to watch accumulate than chasing a wave that may never hit us. 

Throughout His journey, Jesus was humble. He sought out the ripples, never the waves. Yes, He stood in front of crowds, but He also targeted the lost and hurting. There are times to dive deep into the crashing waves, but God also calls us to make ripples. That's all He wants from us. Jesus was the everlasting example of what making a ripple can do. He was one man and He had 12 disciples. He was King of the world, yet He didn't boast. Instead, He reached out to people who no other king would ever touch. 

Jesus made a ripple. That ripple grew through 12 other disciples, women close to Him, and any others close to Him. The ripple He made in those few lives led to the 2.2 Billion people who call themselves Christians. Though not all of them are saved, 2.2 Billion people on this earth associate themselves with something that Jesus started. 

A ripple was all it took.

I saw a quote a few years ago that says,

How we walk with the broken speaks louder than how we sit with the great.
- Bill Bennot

Jesus, in my mind, lived this quote. 

What about you? What are your intentions?

Are you chasing after the waves when you should be delighting in watching God use your ripples?

The earth has 7 billion people chasing waves, trying to change the world.

Are you willing to step aside from the rest of the world and allow God to create ripples through you as He did Jesus?

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The Woman by the Ocean

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The Woman by the Ocean

Last Wednesday, I sat down next to a middle age woman, who rocked my entire world. Up until this last week, I had never had a conversation gone wrong with anyone I reached out to on the beach. Up until her, I felt pretty confident in myself, I guess you could say I had it coming.

She was alone on a blanket looking at the ocean, so I felt pulled to reach out. After commenting on her situation, I sat down and asked to share about my summer. She quickly turned defensive and said, "if I take the time to listen to you you have to respect what I have to say too." 

Definitely took me off-guard.

She mentioned her belief that she thinks people should be good without having to "be good for someone or a reason." She hated the church and hypocrisy. I agreed. We all hate hypocrisy. She said her mother was partially Jewish, but she didn't desire to follow neither her heritage or Jesus.

She shared her story and I dug into mine, but somehow the words just wouldn't come out. She was defensive and her reaction made me feel as if she was a lost cause and nothing I said would change her mind. I shared the gospel, but it felt as if I was talking to a wall.

Soon, the tide swept in and she cut off the conversation and I walked away analyzing what happened. Her response made me feel inadequate. I walked away rethinking everything I believed in about sharing the gospel. I felt silenced and as if I couldn't say anything I thought I needed to. 

But then I realized nothing I could ever say would ever save anyone. Only Jesus can unveil someone's eyes to every lie they've believed in or lived out and nothing I will do will ever be able to compare. 

I walked away realizing I look at Jesus as a TOOL TO BE USED verses looking at myself as the TOOL. 

That woman may have become more ignorant towards Christ after that conversation or maybe God used sharing the bridge diagram and my story to allow her to see God for the first time. The saddest part is I will never know. 

Personally, the hardest part is knowing not everyone is going to Heaven. In fact, it scares me. How dreadfully scary is it to realize we know and carry the key to Heaven in our hearts. Often, we are so scared and/or selfish to take the time to share it. I let that fear of trying to save everyone hit me like a wall of bricks, but then Jesus sweeps in and reassures me that His plan is His plan alone to carry out. Yes, I should be living out the Gospel and sharing it, but I should not do it out of fear of trying to take everyone off Hell's hit list by my own strength. 

I cannot save anyone, you cannot save anybody. Only Jesus saves. He uses us, not the other way around.

Yes, preach the Word and share the Gospel as often as you feel led to, but never let fear become the reason for sharing. Do not walk away from what felt like a dead-end conversation and believe that because it "went wrong" in your eyes means it was a failed mission.

God does not fail missions, in fact He scoops them up and fulfills them in His perfect timing. Jesus completes the mission. He uses you whether or not you reap and/or see the benefits.

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Five Minute Life Fix

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Five Minute Life Fix

Sorry to disappoint, but I don't actually know how to fix your life in five minutes. In fact, I think it is quite odd of you to think you could fix your life at such a rapid speed? Also, should I be concerned?

You may think it's fake news, but quick fixes actually do not fix anything. If fact, usually they end up hurting you in the long run. 

Have you ever thought about why we tend to click on the blog posts, articles, or Pinterest ideas on things that say something like:

  • How to get rid of ... quick and easy
  • The best solution for ...
  • How to permanently stop ...
  • How to ... the right way
  • 5 Questions you should ask before ...
  • How to ... in 5 minutes
  • Tips for effortless ...
  • 1 Simple rule to ...
  • 10 simple things you can do to ...
  • 2 most strategic ways to accelerate ...
  • 7 Tricks to ...

I wonder how many books, articles, magazines, treatments, or technology we have invested in and spent our money on in order to achieve these "quick fixes."

How crazy is it that we doubtfully read and chase after things that we know will not satisfy our desire?

However, we continue to click on these ideas that give us momentary hope in the growth we want to see in our lives. Despite the endless lists of failed products, weight loss tips, or life hacks, we continue to pursue these "easy outs."

Why is that?

This summer, I have learned about how much we, as humans, tend to chase after any option that could lead us towards the destination we desire without asking for help, spending the extra money to consult a professional, or ask God--the ultimate professional who wrote every book on how to live a perfect life.

I have learned that we chase everything but the heart of God. Often, I feel like God is my "last resort." I tend to desire control and when I think I can fix something without having to "bother" God, then I usually try to. My bad, did I say usually? I meant all the time.

God tends to feel too hard to reach or too busy because I do not take the time to realize I am the one too busy, not Him

I measure my success by looking in a mirror, use self-talk to talk myself up, and let other's comments about me hit too hard.

You know what's funny? We are not who we see in the mirror because it only reflects what is on the outside and not the inside. Our self-talk, whether positive or negative, does not paint a accurate picture of who we really are. What others say about us cannot touch us because only God can judge, only He can define. Instead, God knows us better than anything or anyone ever could--He created us. 

Our true identity cannot be ESTABLISHED from anything else but God and His word. Our desires will never be met by the simplicity of what those 10 Steps to Receiving Fame promise us. 

Growing up, I felt like I was doing everything right, yet it felt all wrong. I knew God was God and about His love, but somehow the distance and what I knew to be true about Him felt like a distant fairy-tale that deep down I was hoping to be true.

I felt an obliviousness towards God, despite knowing the facts, that Jesus died for me, and how much He loved me.

Looking back on life, I think we can all agree that at some point in our walk with the Lord we were more concerned with appearing godly than with knowing God. We chased the quick fixes instead of chasing the only thing that can fix our problems--Jesus. Everyone judges our hearts by our behavior, instead of understanding that God cares more about our hearts. 

Can we honestly say we talk to God about what we are feeling instead of saying what we think He wants to hear?

Life has no quick fixes outside of Jesus and the powerful work He can do in our lives. Maybe it is time to start being honest with ourselves and "fix" how we interact with others, the Word, and ourselves with small, God-guided steps every single day.

Ask yourself:

  1. For God to be pleased with you, what do you think you should be chasing?
  2. What is your heart chasing the most?

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Prepare to Share, Dare to Care

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Prepare to Share, Dare to Care

In our minds (those of Christians), we often picture ourselves standing on a stage with thousands in the audience. If we (the speaker) looked around, we'd picture some listening, some sobbing, some with their heads rested between their hands, some trying to hold in all the emotions with silent tears falling down their cheeks, while others sit as cold as ever. We imagine a beautiful, inspiring soundtrack playing, while the rest of the world sits silently as our voice echos throughout the giant stadium. We picture thousands falling on their knees with their hands raised high begging for the Lord to save their lives and break apart the chains holding them to their pasts, illnesses, and temptations. 

At least, when I hear the word evangelism, this is what I imagine.

The first time I shared my testimony, it was over a phone. Yeah, that's right. Horrible idea. The next time, I was sitting in the middle of a game room with clashing pool balls and loud, obnoxious music playing in the background so loud I had to repeat everything twice and I lost my voice. The time after was given over lunch in a room so silent I thought I could hear the drop of sweat that ran off my back hit the floor. 

Then, one Friday night I was driving home to finally share my testimony on a stage, which I thought would finally come close to what I pictured my "perfect testimony-sharing stage" to look like. Man...was I wrong. I walked out of church that Sunday from filling two back-to-back forty minute sermon time slots with my head a mess. I had said what I planned to, but somehow it didn't come out like I had practiced. I kind of got the reaction I expected to, but not totally. I went back and listened to the recording and, I kid you not, probably got a concussion from hitting my head against the wall every time I heard myself say "um." I hated every bit of how I told my story. I felt inadequate and I should have talked about God more. There are so many "should haves." I wish I could press rewind on the whole thing just to make a second attempt. 

The thing is, I walked away that day disheartened. I felt like I had failed God. I felt like I had failed everyone in my story. Returning home, I remember seeing some people in the following weeks who negatively impacted my life (though I had not mentioned their names) and getting glaring looks as if I had lied to the entire world. I remember Satan filling my head with the thought that I should quit sharing because nobody believes me and I am a liar--like the pain I had felt in my past was something I made up.

Little did I know in one of the rows near the front a very lost young man wept that Sunday. That day a child of God was returned after so much searching and years of pain. That man was not supposed to be there, yet he showed up. His grandparents approached me with tears in their eyes weeks after that Sunday and told me their grandson dedicated his life to Christ that day and he feels brand new. 

Little did I know.

I took a leap of faith and trusted God that He would use my story to save the lives of others. I told Him I wanted to be used. After beating myself up for weeks about how and what I had shared, God proved His faithfulness, even when my trust fled. The moment Satan tried to burn up my desire to share the Gospel, Jesus came and put it out. 

I would do it all over again. I would receive those hateful texts that left me wondering late at night why I try. I would stand on the stage and share the exact same message and go through the same experiences I spent my life trying to survive. I would do it again.

For that one person. For that one, young man who decided to randomly show up at church the same Sunday I thought I spoke and thought I totally blew it. 

How sweet is our Lord? How sweet are His mercies and His faithfulness to show up even when we flee the midst of the battle? He calls us back and not only allows us to continue fighting behind Him, but uses us to win impossible battles.

It was not my story that saved that man, it was the grace of God. How sinful is it to think of my story as my own--to place the weight of saving lost souls on my own shoulders? How much disappointment in myself must I experience before I realize how God sees me and allowing Him to "take the wheel"?

What about your story? Are you willing to allow Jesus to use you, despite any wounds you may receive from this fallen world?

Sharing your personal testimony is one of the hardest, yet most rewarding opportunities you will ever experience. The question is, how does one prepare a personal testimony? This summer we have learned that anything we say can be more effective if we know how to organize our thoughts. Testimonies have to be simple, clear, and intriguing. Here are some ...

Do's and Don'ts of giving a testimony:

| DO |

  1. Ask the Lord to give you wisdom and guidance.
  2. Use a three point outline describing your life before Christ, how you came to know Him as your Savior, and what your life has looked like after receiving Him.
  3. Use a attention-grabbing beginning with a thought-provoking ending.
  4. Explain in a way that associates others to your story.
  5. Arouse interest.
  6. Use one to two verses.

| DO NOT!! |

  1. Use Christian jargon, such as "saved," "convicted," or "converted."
  2. Be too wordy.
  3. Speaking extravagantly.
  4. Mention denominations.
  5. Give the impression becoming a Christian makes life perfect and easy.

When your are ask to share your testimony, be sure to:

  1. Share with enthusiasm about how the Holy Spirit has transformed you!
  2. Speak loudly and clearly.
  3. Avoid mannerisms that distract.
  4. Avoid using a preachy tone.
  5. Smile!
  6. Memorize it and practice until it becomes natural!

When sharing with a non-believer, make sure to ask questions to see where they are in their walk with the Lord by asking questions, such as:

  1. What are three words that would describe your life?
  2. Do you have any religious background?
  3. How would you explain Christianity to a non-believer?

Moreover, when you are sharing, make sure you CARE for that person in a way that makes your testimony uplifting, not heavy or points them away from the Gospel.

DARE TO CARE ABOUT THAT PERSON THROUGH YOUR TESTIMONY AND PREPARE TO SHARE YOUR HEART!

I hope you share and fully trust that our gracious Lord may use you.

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God's WILL for Your Life

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God's WILL for Your Life

Have you ever down and wondered why life just does not work out sometimes? Have you ever questioned God and asked Him why you had to go through the suffering or experience you did or why something you wanted ended up in total chaos?

Me, too. 

In fact, we all have. To say you have never questioned if God was real or if His plan for your life was actually good would be similar to a athlete questioning their coach if his or her workout plan is actually beneficial or if the purpose is only to inflict pain and injury.

Often times, I find myself questioning if God's plan is actually good--if in the end it will all be worth it--if the pain will be worth it. Looking back on life, I would not hesitate to say yes--it was all worth it. If I did not see the reward and strength I acquired from those experiences, then I would not be sitting here blogging today and you would not be reading my thoughts.

ALL Christians debate God's WILL for their lives. We know the Bible mentions our hearts and nature are controlled by God, as stated in Psalm 115:3, Psalm 135:6, and Proverbs 21:1. We KNOW God is in control, but do we actually feel it? 

Often, we mistake God's WILL as a desire for something we think WILL happen verses knowing God is in control so it WILL happen as He sees fit.

Control is something we struggle with a human beings. We desire taking the wheel and going where we think is best, despite knowing God knows everything. Sometimes, we get caught up in the thought that God is too busy to help us, so we carry mountains of things that were only meant for God's shoulders and for us to climb. 

Even Satan knew of this deep desire for control. He knew he could tempt Eve with the thought of knowing good and evil in order to have control over her own life. We want control. God reveals Himself through nature and the Word, but Satan twists how we perceive those two things and convinces us with outstanding arguments that God is not _______ (whatever we are doubting).

Karl Geary said in the talk, "God's Will for Your Life,"

Rebellion against God is rebellion against goodness itself.

As humans, we put on masks. We pretend everything is okay. As a Christian, I myself have put on a smile and "faked it till I made it." I told people I was trusting in the Lord with specific things and for His plans in my life, but inside I was fearful. Outwardly I would confess that God would supply for me, but inwardly I was still trying to convince myself of the words I just spoke to someone else. 

It was inauthentic faith. Instead of practicing my faith, the Lord showed me I was practicing my doubt. Let us be honest, we do not have faith a lot of time. Instead of faking faith, I needed to become honest with God. He wants us to talk with Him and He already knows what we have to say, all we have to do is open our mouths. 

Authentic faith is trusting in things we cannot see. It's not just believing in God, but BELIEVING HIM (AND HIS WORDS). We must believe Him to believe in His works. 

So, the question is...

Do you not only trust God's power, but do you trust His love?

God's WILL will happen.

Chances are, if we had met the Pharisees and if they were living right now, we would feel guilty (the Church) for trash talking them so much because in our eyes they would look like the perfect Christians. ARE WE NOT PRETENDING LIKE WE ARE PERFECT? Do we not pretend as much as the Pharisees and sometimes MISS THE MARK and what God ACTUALLY HAS IN STORE FOR US? 

Last week, a staff member spoke chapter 8 of Romans from memory. I looked around the room and realized only a few students were watching him, while the rest were looking down at their Bibles. IS THIS NOT LIKE THE CHURCH TODAY? Only a small percentage of believers will see God's miracles and experience His wondrous love because the rest are too busy doing other things in His name and so wrapped up in living a perfect life to even LOOK UP AND SEE HIS POWER. No, this staff member is not God, but that moment, in my eyes, made me recognize how blind some of us are--how arrogant we are to think we can read or live out the Bible better than anyone else to even look up and sit in awe of who God is.

Max Lucado once said,

And it also makes me smile to think there is a grinning ex-con walking the golden streets who knows more about grace than a thousand theologians. No one else would have given him a prayer. But in the end that is all he had. And in the end, that is all it took.

It blows my mind to realize God is more concerned with what we are doing, than what we achieve. Many Christians will have huge testimonies and will have saved thousands of others, but there will be saints among them in Heaven who did not save one other person, but loved unconditionally and like Jesus did. So, do you treasure Him? What are you pursuing? What do you delight in, daydream about, long for, or ask God for?

God wants you to have those things, but if those things are what you desire over God, do they even matter?

Psalm 27:4 speaks to this. In order to pursue God, we must remember the gospel every day and the miracle that takes place (2 Peter 3:9, Hebrews 12).

Once your eyes are set on God, how will God work?

Sorry to break it to you, but you are not that important. Psalm 103 speaks to this. You will become dirt when you die.

Therefore, we must remember God is God. We are small and He is large.

John the Baptist was questioned about how he felt about Jesus baptizing people and "taking away his business." He responded, "He must increase and I must decrease. Therefore my joy is complete."

God's love is not a ditch where He is waiting for us to fall off on either side of. It is a valley where we are taking little steps in the right direction trusting that God will show us the way. 

Karl dove in Matthew 25 that talks about the master who entrusted his servants with a sum of money. One of the three doubled the money because he had faith. Karl then said, "Make sure we're faithful in the small decisions now and God MIGHT entrust you with more in the future."

We may never be entrusted with anything more, but we must trust everything to Him. We must know what God wants and how He works through reading the Bible and seeing what He says.

Psalm 37:4 talks about delighting in the Lord. We must pursue Him by examining our desires and having a heart after the Lord. We must not only examine our desires, but our abilities and opportunities as well. God gifted us with abilities and moments to use for His glory. We must be faithful with what we have now.

All in all, "If you can't walk a direction do not try going there."

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I Want A Relationship!!

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I Want A Relationship!!

Lucas and Ariana Cecka gave the relationships talk yesterday before church.

The Goal?

To establish your view of gospel-centered relationships and to give you some guiding principles.

THE Relationship

The ultimate relationship our hearts were designed for would be the vertical one -- the one that ties us to our Heavenly Father.

We are all spiritually unclean. On the outside, we can portray ourselves white as snow, but on the inside we have leprosy. Not only are we unclean, but our hearts are damaged and not white as snow in any regards. 

Ariana presented a clip from the original Disney Beauty and the Beast. This clip included the scene the very beginning of the movie where the young man is turned into a beast because there was no love in his heart. In some ways, we are the beast. Our hearts are just as ugly as his. However, Jesus was Belle--the woman who fell in love with the ugly beast and saved him from eternal death. Belle saved the beast, even though he deserved death--this is true love.

Jesus loved us when we were unlovable. We, as Christians, need to realize we need Jesus more than a significant other or friend. Our hearts are craving someone to fill us up completely and look at our ugly, sinful hearts and love us despite the darkness in our lives. Only God can fulfill that desire--the desire to be loved unconditionally and completely. 

"Everyone is looking for someone who is looking for you" - Ariana Cecka.

We are all searching for something or someone to fill the emptiness inside our hearts, until we allow Jesus to overwhelm our hearts with HIS love we will search for eternity for something to fill only He can.

God created horizontal relationships for us to delight in, too.

If He is filling us up, then He can fuel and lead our horizontal relationships as well. Our hearts will overflow with love that can seep into all of our other relationships if we allow God to work.

Marriage is a biblical example of the closest relationship we have that can relate to ours with God. However, marriage is NOT the mission. Marriage is disappointing because we are human and sin exists. 

C. S. Lewis once said, "There are all sorts of things in this world that offer to give it to you, but they never quite keep their promise. The longings which arise in us when we first fall in love, or first think of some foreign country, or first take up some subject that excites us, are longings which no marriage, no travel, no learning, can really satisfy."

This is so true! However, Jesus is our mission so marriage is being on mission together. Jesus IS the mission. Marriage can be a shadow of the pleasure God will offer in Heaven. Yes, it is broken, but it is also a glimpse of how much He wants us to delight in His works and in each other. 

Colossians 2:17 states, "Theses are a shadow of what was to come; the substance is the Messiah." 

Though marriage is NOT the mission, it IS being on mission together -- to image Christ and the Church. Ephesians 5:22-23 talks about wives submitting to their husbands and husbands are also called to love their wives how Jesus loved on earth. Husbands are called to give all of themselves for their wife's joy, while wives are called to respond attentively and joyfully to his lead. It should look like a dance where the man leads while his wive submits but is attentive and helping him lead in the best way he can. Genesis 2:24 talks about Adam and Eve and their perfect relationships before the fall.

There are two biblical principles to build a marriage on:

  1. Must be someone of the opposite sex
  2. Must be a Christian

Love is not a feeling, but a commitment. Feelings can come and go and if we built marriages upon those feelings that relationship will break when the feelings are no longer there. However, if we look at it as a commitment it will fuel the feelings and affections, such as in 1 John 4:10.

So, what about friendships?

For the most part, there are two ditches when it comes with growing close to the opposite sex. The first is avoidance and the other is over indulgence. For avoidance, ask yourself why you avoid and what your fear actually is. When it comes to over indulgence, ask yourself what you are really chasing after.

To have quality, God-honoring friendships, we must relate to one another as family. John 13:34-35 talks about Jesus and His calling of us to love one another as He loved us on earth. Our mission must be to: Display the love Jesus has for you in your friendships.

Why do we date? We either date coming from a cultural perspective or a Christian one. Culture tells us dating is for "trying on" people to see who you will best "fit" with while Christians date to pursue marriage. 

As a Christian, how can we pursue dating relationships that honor God?

For one, we can PURSUE CLARITY over intimacy. If intimacy is prioritized then emotions and physical affections will lead the relationship, but if clarity becomes the priority then pursuing relational purity will be a bit easier. Dating is the evaluation stage--look for someone who is mature and surrounds himself with good community while pursuing you with God-honoring intentions and don't forget to have FUN. 1 Timothy 5:1-2 and 1 Corinthians 6:18 seek to this standpoint.

Secondly, date to PRIORITIZE Jesus. Let your dating mission become: displaying Jesus as you pursue clarity for marriage.

Thirdly, use COMMUNITY! Date vulnerably by telling every detail of your relationship to an individual or group of women or men who will lead your intentions, heart, mind, and emotions back to Jesus. Proverbs 18:1 backs this up. 

Take risks because we're safe with God"
- Ariana Cecka (Proverbs 11:14).

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Built Up

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Built Up

Zach Simmons has led the last two personal worship training talks: "Built Up by the Bible & Built Up Through Prayer."

Built Up by the Bible

He introduced the session by saying,

"Christianity is about a person, not an ethnic idea."
- Zach Simmons

His goal for the session was for students to treasure the means God has given to them to relate to Him. 

Colossians 3:16 says, "Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God."

Simmons summoned three questions to the front of our brains:

  1. Why do we need the Bible to be true?
  2. What does it mean for us to dwell richly?
  3. Why should we want it to dwell in us richly?

Jesus is on every page of the Bible, whether or not we recognized that. We need to dwell richly in the Bible because it is required in order to stake our lives on it. We have to submit to it--sleep on it. Also, we should want and desire it to dwell within us in order to see God's glory.

He wrapped up the conversation by using an analogy between a window and chalet. Most of the time, we stand in the window looking at the Swiss Alps, aka. our lives or faith or anything really, but that was not what we were created for.

We were made for mountains, not mirrors.

 

Built Up Through Prayer

The goal of this talk was to establish how we treasure God's gift of prayer.

Colossians 4:2 states, "Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving." The Bible calls us to prayer, but why?

Simmons made three points.

  1. Why is it so difficult?
  • To experience God, we must be present.
    • Real moments evoke things we don't want to feel. There are three ways to push off feelings:
      1. Distract ourselves / capture feeling
      2. Dream of things we want / desire
      3. Divulge very little
    • We are afraid of God
    • We don't want to really feel God
  1. What is prayer?
  • Prayer is answering God
    • It is based off what we know of God - regardless of religion.
    • God is relational.
    • God demands a response to His glory.
    • Question: Am I worthy to pray?
  1. Why should we want to pray?
  • It is an invitation into the dance of God's glory.
  • It is an extension of His glory.
  • Who do we dance with? 
    • We dance with a King who is majestic, just, merciful, and gracious.
    • We dance with a Father who sees us as His delight, He is our friend, and His dependent.

God loves you just because He loves you. He does not have to love you, but He chooses to. 

Takeaway:

To be established in Christ, how important is it for you to continue steadfastly in prayer?

Prayer should be a conversation. It should be candid and completely honest. It should be consistent and specific.

Prayer should include:
A. adoration - what is praise-worthy
C. confession - how have I rejected God?
T. thanksgiving - how has He provided for me?
S. supplication - what are my needs and what do I need to resupply?

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Ain't Nothin Like The Country Life

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Ain't Nothin Like The Country Life

Week 1's LOW COUNTRY BOIL SOCIAL was sweeter than some southern sweet tea.

Or was it...

Festivities included some redneck eatin' of some tasty corn, sausage, and potatoes, goodwill-bought outfits, carnival games, prizes, a watermelon eating contest, kickin' karaoke, and line dancing.

 

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Can I Trust Jesus With My Money?

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Can I Trust Jesus With My Money?

Alberto Ramos opened Sunday's life training topic on finances by asking the question,

"How do you view money?"

Students took a few moments to write down their thoughts. Then, Alberto went on to say the Bible brings up the topic of money 2,000 times, so it must be important? 

"We don't worship money, we worship what money can give us."
-Alberto

Matthew 6:1-4 talks about giving to the needy. It mentions those who practice righteousness in front of others in order to be seen by them will not receive their reward in Heaven. It pleads for believers to give in secret. Verse 24 draws in the idea that man cannot worship both money and God. Man, when put in that position, will hate one and love the other, but not serve both equally well.

Alberto made three points:

We use money as a means to happiness.

  • Why do we strive to buy earthly happiness when we have treasures in Heaven?
  • Matthew 6:19-21 discusses this,“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also."
  • Whatever we spend our money on, that shows where our heart is.
  • Many believe if we can get _____ or be ______, then we will be happy, but this is not true.

We use money as a means to acceptance.

  • We compare and want to be a part of the "in crowd" so much.
  • We desire status and fame, often times we use money to achieve both.

We use money as a means to get security.

  • There is no promise our money will be there tomorrow.
  • James 4:14-15 says, "Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.”
  • The desire for money is not bad. What is bad is how you go about that.

So, the question is: 

What are you longing for?

God offers us all of these things!!

Hes offers us:

  1. Joy - Psalm 16:11 - He will give joy to us HIMSELF!
  2. Unconditional Acceptance - Colossians 1:21-22 - He RECONCILED US!
  3. Security - Hebrews 13:5-6 - What can man do to us when we have God?
  4. Grace - Romans 8:32 - If He gave us things based on who we are, we'd be in Hell.

God gave up His son for those who rejected Him, so who are we to become stingy and not give to others? Luke 18 goes on to describe how it is important to give up everything in our hearts, but it is impossible without God. Only He can change our hearts.

Practicals:

  1. Be Thankful - 1 Timothy 6:6-10
  2. Be generous
  3. Give sacrificially - Trust giving will hurt and cause us to have to say no to other things.
  4. Be a steward of your money - spend wisely.
  5. Be accountable
  6. Spend time in prayer - We are naturally selfish, so God must change our hearts.

 

 

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Evangelism Training - Bridge to Life

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Evangelism Training - Bridge to Life

On Wednesday the entire population of project walked to the beach and shared the gospel.

Emotions regarding this afternoon activity were all over the board varying from nervousness to excitement. The best part of sharing the gospel is you start to realize where you stand yourself. Your own beliefs, insecurities, and questions are uncovered by the simple arguments non-believers present.

Right before walking to the beach for the first time to evangelize, Alberto Ramos offered up knowledge on establishing evangelism through hands on training and discussion. He talked about what the Gospel is and what it is not. First, he asked us to write down and describe what we thought the Gospel is. Many responses stated it is sharing what God did through the death of His son, Jesus, on the cross (Romans 1:16-17). Then Ramos brought up what the Gospel is not by listing several things:

  • Is not good news without bad news
  • A call to perfection
  • A formula
  • The Basics (Meaning, the Gospel is not ABC’s, but A through Z).
  • Good Advice

Alberto went on to discuss four points: (1) Who is God, (2) Who are we, (3) What God has done, and (4) How should we respond.

  1. Who is God? Acts 17:5 says we cannot serve God. We cannot serve someone who cannot be served because He does not need us to serve Him—He is all powerful. Colossians 1:15-20 says we are not like God because we are human.
  2. Who are we? We are broken image bearers of the true King. Genesis 1:27 says we were created in His image, but we are sinful, so we are broken. Colossians 1:21 and Colossians 2:13 back up who we are also.
  3. What has God done? God has made a way. Colossians 1:13-14 says He has not only delivered us from sin, but transferred us. Colossians 2:13-14 proves Jesus paid our debts. 2 Corinthians 5:21 claims God made Jesus to become sin in order to take our own upon Himself.
  4. So, how should we respond? By faith—we should respond with overwhelming faith. Our heavenly father wants nothing from us. All He desires is us to want Him back. God has not only desired us but sought after us when we were sinners. Even when we did not want Him, He ran after us and continues to do so. He wants our attention—our lives. He also wants us to share with others.
Rescue those being led away to death; hold back those staggering toward slaughter.
-Proverbs 24:11

To evangelize, we used the Bridge to Life diagram.

 

NavBridge.jpg

We based our evangelism on Romans 6:23—For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Basically, we offered a bridge to fill the gap to life. People truly believe there are different paths to God, but only one leads to eternal life. The Biblical way is found within Romans 6:23. The left cliff, where we are stuck before accepting Christ into our hearts, finds us burdened and cut off from God due to the wages of our sins and our eternal death due to those sins. Wages, sin, and death are three words that can describe non-believers and the unsaved. However, on the right side God stands calling out to us. He is offering, through Jesus, a free gift—something without cost. Words to describe the cliff that God stands on are: free gift, God, and eternal life.

So, how do we bridge the gap? Well, we bridge it through the death of Jesus Christ on the cross. However, receiving Christ requires repentance and trust. We must turn away from rebellion and trusting that good works can save us because they cannot. Ephesians 2:8-9 clearly points out we cannot save ourselves.

Three questions we must ask ourselves are:

  1. Which side of the chasm are you on?
  2. Which side do you want to be on?
  3. What is keeping you from trusting Jesus?

Really, you are asking yourself if you see yourself as your own savior or if you see Jesus Christ as your eternal key and savior.

Before accepting Christ to bridge the gap between us and God, we are sinful and try to save ourselves with good deeds, religion, mortality, and philosophy. However, John 14:6 clearly points out the only way we can be saved, such as described in the image below.

There are four things we must recognize when a person receives Christ:

  1. God forgives all of your sins – Colossians 2:13
  2. You become a child of God – John 1:12
  3. You will never be separated by God’s love –Romans 8:38-39
  4. The Spirit of God dwells in you – Ephesians 1:13-14

We are no longer condemned to eternal Hell. Jesus Christ saved us from that horrible, everlasting death—how blessed are we?!

 

bridge-to-salv-11.jpg

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Week One - Worth It or Nah?

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Week One - Worth It or Nah?

Wow.

An entire week at project has already come and gone.

According to some people, the days have flown while others claim each day felt like an entire week. I think so far the realization that we are literally living on the beach in South Carolina (hopefully) pursuing Jesus with everything we got has not hit a lot of people.  It definitely has felt like a whirlwind—kind of like summer camp where people arrive with abounding energy only to realize a week later that this summer will not just be constant rap battles, pool time, or walks on the beach. In fact, the level of energy it takes just to pay attention to daily devotions or life training surprises me.

From figuring out dress codes, recognizing how difficult it is to build deep relationships, breaking down walls that have been deeply imbedded into our hearts, becoming familiar with work, scheduling, and co-workers, and taking the first step towards sharing the gospel for the first time with a stranger on the beach have all had its challenges. Project so far has felt like a mixture of school, daily counselling sessions, figuring out how to live like a vacationer trying to eat healthy and richly while on a poor college student’s salary, yet feeling a strange mixture of highs and lows—abounding joy and overwhelming darkness on a wide scale for everyone. For some, project has become an amazing outlet to connect with other believers, while for others it has become a place that requires processing that causes both joy or pain. Everyone signed up for this trip, but not everyone brought the same type and amount of baggage. Personally, I think it is so neat to see how much one person can impact another, especially in a Christian environment—how each of our broken and overbearing baggage can help heal each other.

Looking back on the last ten days, I would not have it any other way. The pain we’ve felt—that I’ve felt—cannot compare to the joy that is coming. At least that is what my Bible continues to scream at me. Looking towards the coming weeks based off this past week makes me question if project was worth uprooting myself, moving across the country, leaving friends, family, plans, and summer traditions behind.

It was—and is—and I know will continue to be.

God is good. Whether we know it or not now, this summer will be the hardest, yet best summer of our lives. We all will grow in ways we never thought we needed to grow in. Jesus will break us and continue to do so until we realize He is the only glue that will permanently fix us. In fact, He will become the glue that not only fixes us but makes us better than we were brand new.

To become new, we have to expect tough growing pains. We have to prepare for battling our deepest, darkest parts of ourselves.

But I believe we are ready—and it will be worth it.

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Summer Theme Announced!!

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Summer Theme Announced!!

Lucas Cecka introduced this summer’s theme in the first session, which is:

ESTABLISHED!

The thought behind the theme is that we are all projects ourselves. Working on ourselves
as Christians calls us to become more established in Christ. The theme verse is:

COLOSSIANS 2: 6-7

So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to
live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened
in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness
.”

Why must we become established? Lucas gave an analogy of two ditches. One ditch represents our worldly thoughts and desires. Colossians 2:4-8 talks about how Paul was absent in body, but he was present in spirit and desired to encourage their walk with Christ. Paul calls his readers to receive Jesus Christ as their Lord and to continue to build themselves in Him, “be rooted and built up in Him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing in thankfulness.” He also warns them to become dependent on Christ, not to become captives to deceptive philosophy and dependent upon tradition or spiritual forces. Therefore, we must be established so this doesn’t happen. The world is constantly pushing us to pursue things of this world that look satisfying. The second ditch described is that of self-righteousness. Colossians 1:23 talks about continuing in one’s faith by establishing and firming their spiritual foundation. “Both of these ditches are rejecting instead of receiving Christ,” Lucas pointed out. 

What does it mean to receive Him? First, it requires dying to self. Philippians 3:8 calls us to consider everything we once held close is now a loss because knowing Jesus Christ is worth more than anything we could ever desire. The overarching question is are we able to hold loosely to the things of this world? Secondly, receiving Christ is free and salvation is given away freely, without any catches. Colossians 2:13-14 states we are dead in our trespasses, but God made us alive by cancelling our record of debt. Overall, we must stop trying to earn what Jesus offers for free. 

Establishing ourselves within Christ and building a firm foundation within the Word is necessary. Developing a yearning for Christ to lead our lives is something we should desire as Christians. This summer is all about establishing a foundation within Christ. 

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2018 Internships

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2018 Internships

Finance Internship

Need a financial internship this summer? Want to go to project, work part time at a job in SC as well as work a part-time finance internship?

Apply to be one of the two STP Finance Interns and help manage the budget, reimbursement process and manage our finances this summer. Work with Nick and gain valuable and transferable skills towards your future career while investing your summer in Myrtle Beach growing spiritually.

Internships starts in April, so apply by March 20th at noon and hear back by March 23rd. Applications are open to students confirmed attending STP 2018.

Pay is $10/hr for the STP Finance Internship.

Design Internship

We're looking for a design intern to help design the *top secret* STP theme logo! This internship takes place in March and the beginning of April and some additional hours during the summer. Applications are due March 20th at noon! 

The design internship includes working with Karen, COM's Communications Director, to develop a logo that will be used in the STP Notebook, banner and T-shirts. Also work with the STP student directors to coordinate the final design for the banners and T-shirts. Applications are open to students confirmed attending STP 2018.

Estimated commitment will be about 20 hours and the intern will be paid $10/hour.

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Why are we so afraid to share the gospel in college?

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Why are we so afraid to share the gospel in college?

This is an important question to ask while any Believer in Jesus is in college. I believe that the university setting is one of the best places to share with people the good news of Jesus Christ, but why is it that we so often do not? Steven Lee, the new lead pastor at Bethlehem Baptist Church North Campus, wrote an article called Four Reasons We Don’t Share the Gospel last year, and I thought that it would help explain much of what we students learned this summer at Summer Training Project. 

Steven Lee goes through four obstacles to evangelism for most people, and I will do my best to connect these same points to college students:

1. Lack of Gospel Knowledge 

College students, even at Christian schools, have a huge problem sharing the gospel simply because they do not understand the gospel enough to articulate the truths of the gospel in a simple and coherent way. 

2. Apathy

This obstacle became increasingly evident throughout this summer as students began to look at their lives and reflected on what Christ’s work on the cross actually did. Students are perfectly content making friends and going to dinner with people, but when it comes to sharing the gospel with people, it always seems that we don't have enough time. 

3. Fear 

College age students already have many insecurities. We are still growing and becoming who we want to be, and we are afraid of people rejecting us because we are not enough for them. Sharing the gospel is just another reason for which people could reject us. We do not want to push people away, so we just end up saying nothing.

4. Lack of Compassion

God has revealed to me that in my heart, as in many other college students’ hearts, I do not understand the urgency for those who do not believe in Jesus, and because of that, I, most times, do not have compassion on them as I should if I truly understand the gravity of the situation. 

Summer Training Project has pointed to the good news of Jesus that changes everything. The community that I have gained while being in South Carolina, and the community that many other college students have gained will forever change the way that these students look at the world.

Steven Lee’s Four Steps to Sharing More:

1. Pray Together for the Lost

Throughout the summer, more than 100 students have prayed fervently for the students on their campus to understand that they can be made new through the truth that God sent Jesus down to earth so that we who are sinners could be in a relationship with a Holy God that has come to save us and be in a relationship with us. 

2. Recall the Gospel Together

After going through Ephesians, the students at project were able to not only preach the Gospel to each other, but the students were able to live in a community where each and every person was reminded of the gospel each and every day.

3. Apply the Gospel Together

Throughout the summer, we as students were able to not only remind each other about the Gospel, but we were able to apply the Gospel in real ways. During conflict, arguments, joys, pains, and victories, we were able to see how God has given each of us the ability to live freely in the joys of the Gospel and to unite in the comfort of Christ’s care. 

4. Prove the Power of the Gospel Together

With the believers at project, we were reminded of the sufficiency of God’s word to do his work for his purposes. Ephesians 2:8-9 tells us that the Gospel saves by grace through faith — apart formworks — as a free gift, and during the summer, many were able to trust, believe, and declare it for the first time.

God’s sweet love has been so evident this summer, and it was my pleasure experiencing the joys of Gospel-centered community with so many college students. Amen.

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Powerlessness of Pain by the Suffering of Christ

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Powerlessness of Pain by the Suffering of Christ

Love is a dangerous thing; real love, even more dangerous, because real love opens the door to a grand world of pain. This week, Harmon Squires, the Project Director this year, led a discussion on Pain and Joy, which is usually a very difficult talk for all of us students here at Project. The more that I talk with students and ask them questions about their lives, the more I understand one simple truth: pain is everywhere. 

Pain is when your parents decide to separate you are only 10 years old, and when your little sister dies. Pain is when you get molested as a child, and when your dad abuses your mom. Pain is when you have never even met your dad, when you have no friends. Pain is when you think you are worthless, and when you can’t stand the sight of your own face in the mirror. Pain is when your boyfriend breaks your heart, and when you have a baby, and the father is not in the picture. Pain is when your mom has cancer, and when you have OCD. Pain is when you have a miscarriage, and when you try to commit suicide because life is just not worth living. 

Pain is real, and pain is hard. 

How can a college student possibly cope with such difficult pain in the midst of such difficult life transition? It seems almost impossible. However, the good news is that it is not impossible. 

I think of the overwhelming joy that I have in Christ. How can I have such joy with such horrific pain? The answer is the Gospel of Jesus Christ. 

“But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8

“For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.” Hebrews 4:15

“You have kept count of my tossings; put my tears in your bottle. Are they not in Your book?” Psalm 56:8

“Looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.” Hebrews 12:2

We do not have a father that cannot feel our pain or that does not see our anguish. We were stuck in the pit of misery and hatred, but God did not let us wallow and die, but he took on flesh, came down to the lowest places (Ephesians 4:9), took hold of us in his arms (Mark 10:16), died for our sins so that we may be alive with Christ (Ephesians 2:5), reconciled us with God (Ephesians 2:16), and ascended into heaven to free the captives (Ephesians 4:8). 

Because of this Good News, we are able to be free from our pain and suffering because of the pain and suffering that Jesus endured for us on the cross. This is all that we need. Pain doesn't just disappear then, we still experience pain because this world is not our home (Hebrews 13:14), therefore let us follow the words of Hebrews 12:2, and lift our eyes to Jesus and rest in his unfailing love.

As a Believer, when pain comes our way, it is different. On this earth, God does not necessarily take away our pain, but He promises to meet us in our pain. God promises us that He will comfort us in all our troubles because our comfort abounds through Christ (2 Corinthians 1:3-8). God’s goodness outweighs our pain. God’s glory shines brighter than the darkness of our troubled hearts. Because of that, we can take joy when we go through suffering because Jesus made it possible for us sinners to be with Him in paradise where no one will take away your joy (John 16:22). 

We, as Believers, also have the gift of a Community of Christ. When I feel defeated, I am able to turn to the people that God has provided to me in order that they may point to Christ when all seems hopeless. This is a simple but powerful gift. 

“Since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us” (Hebrews 12:1).

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Stop your Striving, Rest in Christ

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Stop your Striving, Rest in Christ

By Madeline Heidi Meidt

Week Two After Relationships Week!

Pursuing a man or women and pursuing God have proven to produce an attitude of works based righteousness. The majority of my life has been trying to prove myself. My motives have changed throughout the years out of seasons of insecurity and confidence. Out of a spirit of insecurity, trying to prove to myself that I am worth it and that I am worthy of a relationship. In a spirit of confidence, thinking that I deserve a relationship because of how great I have made myself think I am. Both are seasons of selfishness, thinking I am entitled to a relationship and the pursuit of a man. I am human and deserve nothing but hell. I do not deserve a relationship, but because of the cross and the fact that Jesus is the son of God and died for my freedom, I am able to participate in the joys that this life brings and experience life eternal.

In this striving to prove myself, I become weary. It is so tiring trying to prove that I am worth it. I feel like I am not good enough the way I am, but need to put in extra effort to ensure that I am seen as someone worth spending time with. Laughing a little louder, telling extra funny stories, and perfecting how I look to make myself just a little more noticeable. All of these things are striving, trying to make myself better than I may seem, or than I view myself. At times, I’ve wondered why I go to bed so emotionally drained when I am interested in someone. It is this reason: I strive, and I end up dissatisfied and empty when the attention is not returned. I want to be pursued, I want someone to desire me.

The saddest part is that I do the exact same thing with God. I do not believe that the cross is enough. I pursue God, trying to make him notice me more. I read my Bible, make sure I go to church, and write an extra page in my prayer journal, all with the motivation of making myself seem more desirable to God. I want to gain his attention so I can take from him, not to know his heart more. This is striving. I am striving to gain God’s approval. I want him to look at me and say, “Wow, you are so good. I am so proud of you for doing all of these great things. Great job finding and choosing me.” None of that is true! God does not look at me, proud of my good works. He looks at me and sees Jesus. Meanwhile, Jesus is saying, “Father, I paid it all. It is finished, they are yours forever.” My good works are useless compared to what Jesus did on the cross. Thinking that I can earn God’s approval is saying that Jesus is not enough and that Jesus paid most of the debt, but the rest has to be completed by myself. I did not choose God, he pursued me. He came after me into this world to free me forever.

There is no way I would ever desire to turn from my sin and toward Jesus. It is a miracle that the Lord would enter into my heart and change me forever, so I would despise sin and want to know him more. I am SO unworthy, incredibly undesirable, and the lowest of the low. My freedom from sin cannot have anything to do with what I could do. That does not make sense. It has everything to do with Jesus! Jesus did everything. Jesus came, died, rose again, and conquered death, and now reigns forever in heaven with his Father, having freed the world from sin by bridging the gap. It is finished. The work I do on earth does not change that. Because of that, I no longer have to prove myself to God. I can read my Bible with the desire to know Jesus more and to see more of the Gospel, not because I want Jesus to love me more. I go to Church because I want to be around believers and because Church shows me more of Jesus, not because I want other people to see how good I am. I can find joy where I am because Jesus freed me from my sin.

God doesn’t love me because of the things that I do. He loves me because of Jesus. He is constantly pursuing my heart and has been since the beginning of time as he constantly proves himself faithful, kind, and beautiful. He allures me. “Therefore, behold, I will allure her, and bring her into the wilderness, and speak tenderly to her. And there I will give her her vineyards and make the Valley of Heartbreak, a door of hope,” Hosea 2:14–15. He knows me, he created me, and he understands my heart better than I could ever understand my heart. He does not want me tired and worn out in my pursuit of proving myself. Instead he says, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light,” Matthew 11:28–30. How amazing is that? Jesus is saying, “stop your striving! Instead, take my yoke. Take what I have done on the cross and there you will find rest for your soul.”

Stop striving, stop trying to become enough. You will never be enough apart from Christ. Allow God to pursue you and experience that rest. The same is true for our earthly relationships as a marriage between a man and a woman represents Christ and his pursuit of the church. As I said in point one, your relationship status has nothing to do with you. God is completely sovereign, completely in control, he knows what is best for you, what will give you the most joy, and the most growth. Rest in God’s merciful kindness and your identity in Christ.

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Hope Found in Christ, Not in Relationships

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Hope Found in Christ, Not in Relationships

The following two blog posts come from my Fiancée, who was, at the time of her writing, single and in no way expecting to be engaged one year later. Please enjoy her thoughts and be encouraged.

From Madeline,

Last week was the culmination of a long expectant “Relationships Week” at Summer Training Project. This is a week devoted to discovering what is biblically said about relationships involving your family, friends, and significant other. I was excited for this week knowing that our God is a relational God and desires us to have healthy relationships, reflective of his character. Being in a season of singleness for almost a year now, there have been many things revealed to me about relationships, especially in this past year.

Here are just a few:

1.   Because God is sovereign, the reason anyone is single or in a relationship has nothing to do with them at all and everything to do with God’s plan. The reason why I am single is not because I am lacking or exceeding in any area of my life, but because that is what God has for me now for his glory and my joy. This season I am in will produce the most growth and the most joy possible. My ministry is strongest right now in a season of singleness and when God sees fit, I will only be brought into a relationship to make his ministry through me stronger and for me to see more of who He is. It has nothing to do with me.

2.   I am undesirable, but Jesus is infinitely desirable. For a long time I felt like I was invisible to any man because of who I am and what I felt like defined me (my major, my career aspirations, etc.). Because of this lack of attention, I deemed myself as undesirable and therefore unable to be desirable enough to be pursued. I felt like this was wrong that I should not feel this way about myself. I felt entitled to a relationship and that I should be thinking of myself as incredibly desirable, that this was just a confidence issue. The truth is, I am undesirable. A holy and mighty God shouldn’t desire me. But because of Jesus, I am no longer defined by any of these things. God sees me and smiles. He is confident in his decision to save me and joyfully took the cross for me because he is merciful and just. Because of Jesus, God sees me as desirable. Apart from Christ, I am completely and utterly undesirable. Nothing that I define myself as in this world matters. It makes no difference. My ultimate identity is in Christ. I am completely undesirable, but because of who God is, and what Jesus did on the cross, I no longer have to be defined by my undesirability in my sinfulness, but I am defined in Christ as free and new and lovely.

3.   I may be single for the rest of my life and that is okay. This whole last year, I knew that I could be single forever and tried to play the “I’m really tough so I shouldn’t be sad about this reality because God is sovereign” card, but found myself continually discontent. Asking God for a relationship and ending my time in tears, desiring the desires of the Lord, even if it meant singleness, and yet desiring a relationship. This past relationships week I was again reminded of this truth. Yes, I cried real tears when earthly singleness was mentioned, knowing it may be my reality, but was reassured that the Lord is constantly providing for me. I do not need a relationship to be satisfied because my satisfaction comes from the Lord alone. No man will ever satisfy me and if I am expectant of that, I have put my hope in an idol. I may have momentary happiness but that deep joy and security comes from God alone. “The eyes of all look to you, and you give them their food in due season. You open your hand; you satisfy the desire of every living thing.” Psalm 145:15–16. God is faithful! He keeps his promises and he has promised to satisfy me. I do not need to look to a future husband for any bit of joy, happiness or satisfaction, that, in itself, is idolatry.

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Understanding The Forest from the Trees

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Understanding The Forest from the Trees

This summer, we are studying the letter from Apostle Paul to the Church of the Ephesians. Ryan Potter, a staff member at Michigan State University and seminary graduate, explained the study to the leaders the night before the students arrived. There is always a little bit of fear going into a new book of the Bible. The spectrum of knowledge of the students coming into the summer ranges from very knowledgeable to almost no bible study training at all. The question that needs to be answered is simple in nature but complex in application. What kind of Bible study will foster an environment where the depth of the Bible is grasped while retaining the beautiful truth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ?

The summer is organized so that for each day of the summer, there is a scripture that is to be studied going along with STP theme “NEW.” Some days, students will read a whole chapter or the whole book, but most of the time, they will study through three or four verses from the book of Ephesians or a related passage. By August 3rd, the students will have read through the book of Ephesians three times.

The whole purpose of reading through the book three times is to – as Ryan Potter says –understand the forest from the trees. With each week that goes by, the students move close to see the details and wisdom of the passage and then step back to see the overarching purpose and meaning of the entire book.

This week, staff members introduced a method of studying the bible that gives the students the tools to properly evaluate the meaning of the passage that they are studying. Larry Martini, a staff member at the University of Saint Thomas in St. Paul, walked the students through the Inductive Method of Bible Study. The Inductive Method of Bible study comes in three parts: observation, interpretation, and application. The whole purpose of the method is to start at the surface level of the text and dive deep into the meaning and practical implications of the passage. The following explains, in short, the purpose of each of the pieces of the Inductive Method:

Observation: The purpose of observation is to help students point out what the text says without inferring too much about what the text means. Observation strives to answer the questions who, what, when, where, why, and how. It includes repetitions, pronouns, and possible reference words like therefore, but, and however. In this section, students should be able to objectively distinguish important parts of the text.

Interpretation: The purpose of interpretation is to answer the questions brought up in the observation section using concentric circle context. Concentric circle context encourages students to look at the immediate passage, the immediate chapter, the immediate book, other books by that author, and then other scripture. This teaches the students that many answers of tough questions lie in the text that they are studying.

Application: The important purpose of application is to give the students practical implications that the text has for their lives. The focus on application should not be how now the student must act, but instead focuses on how the text should connect to the heart. This helps the student find the heart-level meaning of the text and looking for realistic ways that they can apply it to themselves.

As the summer goes on, we pray that the Lord gives the students a passionate desire to know Him more through His word. We believe that scripture is the inspired Word of God, and because of that we find that it is crucial to the growth of any believer. Sometimes the Word of God seems like a scary forest, and by studying and searching through small portions of it this summer, it is our hope that we come to see Jesus more clearly and know Jesus more dearly.

 

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