How to survive the semester… or at least not hate it.

School is back! For some, this is an exciting time. It’s a time of newness, transition, and change. For others, it’s a stressful time – homework, endless studying, more homework, hectic schedules, even more homework, tests, and did we say homework?

If you want to make the most out of this semester and stress less, we believe the tips below will give you a good start.

 

First… 

Focus on what matters.

Whether you’re a freshman or a super-senior, it’s easy to become distracted throughout the semester, especially during football season! On top of class and possibly work, you’ve got to juggle time with friends, campus organizations, and so much more. Starbucks can help you survive all the activities for a little bit, but at times the demand can be a bit too much. 

If you want to make your semester count, start by focusing on what matters. In James 4:14, the Bible says, “For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away.” Whether you’re religious or not, I think you’d agree with this statement. Life is precious, and it goes by quickly. This is true for your life as a whole as well as your time in college. Because this is true, it is essential to focus on what matters each and every day. The decisions you make today have the potential to positively or negatively affect the rest of your life.

 

Second…

Make a schedule.

It’s hard to focus on what matters when you feel like you can’t keep up with everything that needs to be done. School work and a job are more than enough to cause you to feel like you can’t keep your head above water.

To make this semester count, make a schedule. Creating a schedule is similar to making a budget. When people make a budget they often realize they’ve been wasting a lot of money. When you make a schedule, you may actually come to find you aren’t as busy as you think.

Schedule out time for class, work, and studying, but also schedule out time to relax and hang out with friends. As a Christian organization, we believe one of the best activities to incorporate into your schedule is a time of worship at a local church. Whether you’re a Christian or not, it’s necessary to participate in activities that allow you to recharge.

 

Lastly…

Find a good community.

According to the Bible, “It is not good that man should be alone…” We find this verse in Genesis 2:18. Although this verse is a reference to Adam and Eve, God is teaching us that we are not meant to go through this life by ourselves. We need people in our lives. We need a community. Some people find community through a fraternity or a sorority. Others find community in a religious organization. Because we are Christians, we believe a church or a campus ministry is the best kind of community to join.

 

If you find yourself looking for community, we want you to know that you’re always welcome to be a part of ours, SUB25. This semester may be challenging, but we believe these three tips can help you survive… or at least not hate it!

 

 

3 Tips to Make Your Summer Count

Summer… a time for beach trips, pools, lakes, vacations, spontaneous road trips, and SLEEP. In college, it’s easy to look at the summer as a vacation from everything. No school. No tests. No homework. No schedule. No studying. Did I say no school? Sure, vacations are needed. Rest is even biblical. However, many college students watch summer come and go and miss out on making a difference in God’s Kingdom.

James 4:14, Job 14:5, and Psalm 139:16 teach us that our days are numbered. We only have a certain number of days ordained by God on earth. We can talk about the theology of this later, but this means every day that goes by is one less day in our stack of days. Ephesians 5:15-16 says, 15 Pay careful attention, then, to how you live—not as unwise people but as wise— 16 making the most of the time, because the days are evil. A question you have to answer is: “How am I going to use the days God has given me?”

If you’re a typical college student, you have somewhere between 4 to 6 summers from the time you graduate high school to the time you graduate college and get a “real” job. Because of summer classes and internships, sometimes it’s more like 2 to 3 summers, which comes out to 270 days (give or take). This is a special time you will never get back and will never have again. So how you should you make the most of this time?

 

1)    Recharge Biblically

Semesters in school can be exhausting. Because of this, it can be tempting to veg out all summer binge-watching Netflix, playing hours of Xbox, or sleeping the days away. This may amount to some form of rest, but these actions will not recharge you spiritually. When Jesus walked the earth, He often made a point to pull away from the crowds to spend time with the Father. We see this in Luke 5:16.

 

Use the summer as a time re-focus your heart and mind on your relationship with the Lord. Maybe the semester was so busy you neglected serious time in God’s word and in prayer. Use the summer to get back on track and recharge biblically.

 

2)    Serve Generously

In Mark 10:35-45, we see Jesus’ heart for serving. Verse 45 says Jesus came to the earth to serve and to give His life away. Serving marked Jesus’ life, and it should mark your life as well.

 

How can you serve this summer? There are many Christian camps and mission organizations around the country designed for college students during the summer. But what if you’re just in your hometown working a normal summer job? How can you serve? Find ways at your local church. Talk to a pastor and tell them you want to help. This may mean showing up early on Sunday morning, leaving late, or helping the church staff during the week. The opportunities are out there. You just need to find them.

 

3)    Fellowship Regularly

“Party on!” That’s not what we’re talking about. At the end of Acts 2, we see the early church’s commitment to several actions. Fellowship is one of those actions. The early Christians knew the importance of living the Christian life in community.

 

During the school semester it is easy to get out of the habit of attending ministry events, small groups, and having intentional spiritual conversations. Between class, homework, school events, work, and everything else, it’s easy to let priorities get out of whack. Use the summer to change that. Be intentional about biblical fellowship and community. This doesn’t mean you have to talk about the Bible at every conversation, but it does mean you should intentionally and consistently have those conversations. Use the summer to grow spiritually with other believers through regular times of fellowship. Be committed to gathering with your church. Be committed to a small group. Look for opportunities outside of the normal church gathering to have biblical fellowship.

 

There are many ways for you to make this summer count. We’ve just mentioned a few. This doesn’t mean you can’t have fun. However, it does mean you should think intentionally about how you use your time and money. Use it for the Kingdom! God wants to use you and grow you. Make your summer count!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Three Ways to Survive Finals

It’s almost that time of the semester… FINALS. This means Starbucks, Red Bull, and Monster sales are about to go up. It’s the time of anxiety attacks, sleep deprivation, and junk food. It’s also the time everyone decides to become religious on the way to class… “God, I will do anything for You if you help me pass this class!”

So, how can you survive finals? Is there any hope? You may not be a Christian, but the Bible has a lot of practical wisdom relevant for both the Christian and non-Christian. Here are three ways to help you survive finals. 

1)    Find a plan and stick to it

Proverbs 21:5 The plans of the diligent lead surely to plenty, But those of everyone who is hasty, surely to poverty.

If you’re the kind of person who flies by the seat of your pants, wings it, and comes out with an A or B, count yourself blessed! But remember, when you fly by the seat of pants, you risk losing your pants. One of best things you can do going into finals is find a plan and stick to it. Take a look at your schedule and plan short study-sessions leading up to finals. Mark these on your calendar. Find a system that works for you and stick to it! If you’re not sure where to start, ask your professor or a smart classmate for some study-planning tips.  

2)    Don’t procrastinate

Proverbs 6:6-11 Go to the ant, you sluggard! Consider her ways and be wise…

Arguably, the greatest grade killer is… procrastination. If we are honest, we’ve all done it (and still do it). If you can prevent yourself from procrastinating, you might not just survive finals, you may discover that you’re actually that student that breaks the curve. One of the greatest ways to prevent procrastination is what we have already discussed – find a plan. If you start studying now opposed to the night before each final, you might do really well AND you might even remember what you learn (miracles do happen!).

3)    Pray

Proverbs 3:5-6 Trust in the Lord with all your heart, And lean not on your own understanding; In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He shall direct your paths.

Philippians 4:6-7 Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.

Earlier we joked about praying on your way to class, but we’re actually serious about this. You may disagree, but just hear us out. We believe the God of the Bible desires to have a relationship with people. The Bible teaches us to look to Him for help and strength. We are called to trust Him and lean on Him. God wants us to pray to Him (not just during finals). He wants us to trust Him. Prayer focuses our minds on what really matters. Prayer helps us back off of the ledge of anxiety and stress! 

If you do these three things, we believe you’ll survive finals. We can't promise it will lead to all A's, but we think they will help you. If they do help you, let us know and share these with a friend!  

 

 

It is finished.

Have you ever wondered why everyone dresses up on Easter Sunday? Some people do it out of tradition or for attention, but I believe it is because of the bigness of the occasion. On this occasion, we like to show people the beauty and goodness behind the meaning of Easter: REDEMPTION.

So, what’s the big deal about Easter? Easter is not about the eggs. It is not about the food. It is not about the Easter bunny. Easter is about so much more. Easter is about Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection!

On Good Friday, Jesus was crucified on a rugged, wooden cross (John 19:18). On this day, Jesus took every ounce of punishment for my sin… He took my beating, my tears, my rejection, my shortcomings, my transgressions, my accusations, my unfaithfulness, and my death. This was the day God paid for the debt (sin) that we [sinners] owed in FULL by the blood of His son, Jesus Christ (Romans 6:23, Romans 5:8).

But Jesus didn’t stay dead. On Sunday, the stone was rolled away and the tomb was empty! Jesus was no longer there (John 20:1-2)! Because of this day, eternal life is granted to all who believe in Him (John 3:15).

Easter is not about us. Easter is about the sacrifice God made. Our Abba Father loves us SO much that He gave His only son, Jesus, to be crucified and to take our punishment on the cross. As Jesus took a sip of His last drink, He said “It is Finished” (John 19:30). Jesus gave up His life so that we could be forgiven of our sin and have eternal life with Him and the Father. What is so profound is that God had to pay in full for our debt of sin, but we get the gift of salvation and grace for FREE. Think about a time you bought the best gift for someone and couldn’t wait to see the smile on their face. God is extending you the gift of freedom and salvation today through His son Jesus with so much excitement! All you have to do is accept it!

So, what are you wearing on Easter Sunday? The best tie or the best dress? Frankly, I might be wearing a dress, but I’ll also be clothed in Jesus’ righteousness. You see, because King Jesus is RISEN, He takes our filthy rags of sin and offers us His robes of righteousness.

Luke 24:6-7 - “6 He is not here; he has risen! Remember how he told you, while he was still with you in Galilee: 7 ‘The Son of Man must be delivered over to the hands of sinners, be crucified and on the third day be raised again.’ 

John 14:6 - “6 Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.””

John 3:16 - “16 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”

Romans 10:9 - “9 If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.”

College Student or Missionary?

Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of The Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age. Amen

Matthew 28:19-20

Beginning my freshman year of college, there were some things I knew to expect and some things I did not. I expected to enter an environment that promoted learning and educational growth. I expected God was going to use this season of my life to prepare me for trials later down the road. What I did not expect was seeing the practical application of the great commission on a college campus. Making disciples of all nations is something missionaries do, so how could this be? I entered the college scene wholeheartedly focused on myself. Being a high school dropout, I never considered I’d set foot on a college campus. When God opened doors and I was able to earn my GED, the way I saw myself changed. Much of the humility I carried in my heart turned to pride. I thought God put me on the college campus to build up my knowledge so I could further my goals. I certainly wasn’t expecting the Holy Spirit’s conviction.

You see… everything God gives us, from our physical possessions to the wisdom in our brains, is for His Glory. I always thought of college life as a formative season. However, as the semester progressed, God made it clear he didn’t just want to use me later – He wanted to use me now.

In each of my classes, I would sit down for fifteen minutes before class. For two days each week, I found myself surrounded by people I can talk and relate to with zero distractions. This is the kind of environment missionaries around the world would bend over backward for. Each class is ripe with opportunities to build relationships with people – not just people in my own friend group but people I would normally never hang out with.

There is a shift in priorities when you start going to college with a missionary’s mindset. Yes, we still go to learn and prepare ourselves for our future careers. However, we do not get to turn our “Jesus switch” on and off just because we are not in church or on a mission trip. It’s true… it can be awkward to strike up a conversation with a random person when everyone just wants to sit in silence on their phone until class starts. However, I’m willing to bet most people going to college are capable of making friends. In Jesus’ ministry, He did not just walk around preaching to everyone He saw. On many occasions, He simply ate with people. He invested in the lives of His disciples. Jesus took ministry personally, and so should we. It’s not a hard thing to start a conversation in a classroom by asking about an assignment or study guide. After enough conversations, is it so weird to invite someone to lunch? Given enough time and intentional conversations, “God conversations” have a knack for showing up on their own.

Imagine if in each of our classes we had two or three people we were intentional with. We prayed for those classmates. We talked to them regularly during class time. If we did this in four classes a semester, that is eight people. What if those eight did the same and so forth? Imagine the impact that would make on our college campuses! 

In reality, we don’t have much time we get to spend in college, and when we look back, will all the memories be of the final exams? Will the big sports events and hanging out with friends be the highlights of our college years? I have just finished my first semester, and I have so much to learn, but there is one thing I have learned from this semester. I wish to do more than just get ready for the next season. Wherever we go, it should be our goal to leave a lasting impression. There should be evidence a child of God was there. In truth, we are all missionaries in a foreign land. If you are a college student then your campus is your mission field.

Searching in 2017

23 Search me, O God, and know my heart!
    Try me and know my thoughts!
24 And see if there be any grievous way in me,
    and lead me in the way everlasting!

Psalms 139:23-24

It’s hard to believe 2017 is almost over! For some of you, this year was filled with many hardships. Perhaps you lost a loved one, lost a job, or maybe a relationship ended in your life. For others, the year was full of exciting changes. Maybe you started college, started a new job, or made a new best friend. No matter what kind of year 2017 has been, the end of December is a great time to reflect back on the year.

In what ways did you see spiritual growth this year? Did you see any spiritual growth? In what ways did God’s grace show up in your life in a special way? What are some big principles or truths God has taught you this year? How has your commitment to Jesus and the Bible been strengthened this year? What were some of your biggest spiritual struggles? 

As this year comes to a close, I want to invite you to pray Psalms 139:23-24. As you reflect on 2017, ask for God to search your heart. God sees areas of our heart we overlook or ignore. Ask God to reveal the deep dark areas of your heart. Is there a sin that needs to be confessed? Is there a habit in your life that does not honor Jesus? Is there a part of your heart you have withheld from God?

God wants to grow you, speak to you, bless you, and continue to shape your life. As you spend time with friends and family in the coming days, be sure to spend time with Jesus. I invite you to pray the psalmist’s prayer and follow God wherever He leads.

 

 

 

The Santa Claus Syndrome

For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. 

Ephesians 2:8-9

 

Around this time of year, I'm always flooded with memories of Santa Claus as a kid.  I remember being so stressed out about whether or not I had made it onto his "good list" for that year. I would spend all of December trying to make up for a year's worth of "being good" in hopes of getting every present I had ever dreamed of.

Unfortunately, many of us view God in this Santa-like fashion. We picture an old guy with a white beard watching our every move to make sure we don't mess up.  We think that if we do enough "good" things we'll be put on a list to receive rewards and if we do "bad" things we'll get put on a list to receive punishment. As a result, we either frantically try to be good enough and spend our lives in a constant state of worry and guilt, or we realize we can never be good enough and do whatever we want, accepting our fate, pretending we don't care what happens. The truth is, we actually will never be good enough. Romans 3:23 declares, "For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God."  We all deserve punishment and eternal separation from God. 

However, we have HOPE!  Jesus knew we could never earn our own salvation, so He earned it for us. Romans 3:25 says, God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement, through the shedding of His blood to be received by faith.” Jesus freed us from our sin allowing us to stand holy before God and enjoy a relationship with Him. Romans 8:1-2 announces, Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death.”

As Christians, we don't live the way we do to earn salvation. We live the way we do because we have accepted Jesus's gift of salvation, and our desires begin to reflect God's own desires as we get to know Him.  In the end, salvation is not about the good works we did or didn't do.  Salvation is all about who we did or didn't know. Paul writes in Ephesians 2:8-9, For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith-and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God-not by works so that no one can boast.” 

Do you know Jesus? Have you received His love and forgiveness? During this Christmas season, reflect on the greatest gift ever given – salvation through Jesus.

 

- Leah White 

 

Leah is a college student in the Birmingham area. In her spare time, you can find her painting, hiking, taking pictures, reading, or drinking hot tea. 

Feet and Fellowship

"If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet."

John 13:14

Feet and fellowship… those two words don’t seem to go together. However, in John 13, Jesus shows us the connection. The disciples had just finished having a meal – the last meal they’d have with Jesus before He went to the cross. After the meal, Jesus begins to do the absurd – Jesus begins washing the disciples feet.

The act of washing someone’s feet was reserved for the lowest of all the servants. Its no wonder Peter protests Jesus’ act and says, “You shall never wash my feet!” Why would Jesus take on the role of a menial servant to wash feet? Clearly, the disciples didn’t know the answer to this question. Thankfully, Jesus explains:

12 So when He had washed their feet, taken His garments, and sat down again, He said to them, “Do you know what I have done to you? 13 You call Me Teacher and Lord, and you say well, for so I am. 14 If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. 15 For I have given you an example, that you should do as I have done to you.

Jesus was demonstrating service and humility to his disciples. These are two characteristics that Jesus embodied throughout His entire ministry. In this small strange act, Jesus was demonstrating the life that the disciples were to live – a life of service and humility.

The word fellowship describes the act of participation and communion. As believers we are called to fellowship with one another and with our Savior. However, it’s impossible to fellowship in this manner if we aren’t moving in the same direction with Jesus. This doesn’t mean you should start washing people’s feet on your campus or workplace, but it does mean that you should live a life that represents service and humility. Is the life that you are living? It’s not too late to start.

Soul Food

Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.

John 6:35

 college students in community

This past week we talked about food... Most of us love a hot, fluffy, sweet, Krispy Kreme donut. Others can't resist ice cream, or maybe a perfectly cooked steak. However, we all have cravings deep within that can't be satisfied by food or any other earthly item. Our only hope is Jesus, the bread of life. 

In John 6, we see that a group of people are seeking Jesus. However, they ultimately wanted Jesus' gifts (physical bread), not Jesus Himself. As only Jesus can, He corrects their wrong motives and points out that He is the only one who can offer "bread of life" that eternally satisfies. 

Nothing in this world can satisfy except for Jesus, the bread of life. Drugs, sex, alcohol, money, power, fame, relationships, etc. will never satisfy our deepest need. Our only hope is Jesus. Jesus is both the giver and the gift. Will you receive this gift? We invite you to feast daily on Jesus, the bread of life. 

 college student worshipping

Worthy

"You are worthy of Your name."

 grant harbin leading college worship

Often times our lives get filled with stresses and anxieties that take our focus off of Jesus. School, work, relationships, the future, etc. We get so consumed with these that we lose sight of the big picture. Last night we had the opportunity to refocus and allow our hearts to rest. We spent time worshiping through music, prayer, and reading scripture. As you continue this semester, we challenge you to continue to have moments like this.

Setlist

Lion and the Lamb - Bethel Music/Leeland
Worthy of Your Name - Passion
Resurrecting - Elevation Worship

 

What A Beautiful Name - Hillsong Worship
Come Thou Fount - Kings Kaleidoscope
In Christ Alone - Passion

 
 

I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.
John 15:5

Your Purpose. God's Plan.

Do you ever find yourself comparing your life to someone else's? I know I do, and this typically leads to frustration and discouragement. Although pride is the root of this sin, I think there is another issue -- purpose. 

In John 3:22-30, we find John the Baptist's disciples getting frustrated after comparing their ministry to Jesus and His disciple's. John's disciples see all the people flocking to be baptized by Jesus and His disciples. This led to envy and unhappiness. John's disciples lost sight of their purpose. The whole purpose of John's ministry was to point people to Jesus. 

Misunderstanding your purpose leads to envy and unhappiness. 

John's attitude was completely different than his disciples. John understood God's plan and purpose. He knew that God wanted him to prepare the way for Jesus' coming and point people to Him. Because John understood God's plan, he was secure. He understood his identity. 

Understanding God's plan leads to security and identity. 

The people that once would have flocked to John and his disciples were not headed to Jesus. Although John's disciples were frustrated by this, John was rejoicing. John could rejoice because he was living out his purpose in accordance to God's plan. This led to humility and joy.

Fulfilling your purpose leads to humility and joy.  

Did you know that your purpose is a lot like John's? John's purpose was to prepare for Jesus, point others to Him, and bring God glory. We too are to point other to Jesus and bring glory to God in all that we do. Every ability, talent, skill, passion, gift, and circumstance in your life should be used to point others to Jesus and bring glory to God. 

Let join John, and say, "He must increase, but I must decrease." 

Success is...

This past Thursday we talked about success. Success is something all of us want. However, we have allowed our society to define what success looks like. How would you define success? 

In Acts 20:24, Paul writes, "But I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God." 

I believe Paul's life and the New Testament give us a biblical definition of success. Success is faithfulness. Paul's main goal in life was to be faithful. For him, this was success. 

On Thursday we mentioned three things that were a part of faithfulness to Jesus:

 Selflessness

"I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself..." 

Steadfastness 

"...if only I may finish my course..." 

Service 

"...and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God." 

At the end of v. 24, Paul explains that he was assigned a mission by God. He was commanded to share the gospel with both Gentiles and Jews. As Christians, we have been assigned a mission as well. We have been commanded by God to love God, love people, and make disciples. 

How would you rate your success (faithfulness) in this area?