The Lesson Planner

My life recently has been a hectic and chaotic concoction of busyness, much like everybody else’s lives. However, in the midst of all of my busyness and plans and work and job shadowing, I’ve come to grow closer to God more than I’ve have in a long, long time. Throughout this growth process, I’ve been reminded a lot about past circumstances (some good, some not), and how they fit into my life now. And because of this, I’ve learned something.

God is a lesson planner.

My amazing sister is a college professor at Texas Tech University. There have been numerous times that I’ve gone to her house in the evenings while she’s been creating lessons to teach her students the next day. I almost always ask her if she gets nervous while she’s planning, or even while she’s teaching, because she’s pretty much giving a public presentation every day of her life (this freaks me out quite a bit). She always laughs and says no, she usually doesn’t get too nervous once the first day is out of the way. I tell you this to show you how God works in a parallel way in my life and in your life. God is our ultimate teacher who’s full of love, compassion, and grace. As I continue to stumble throughout my life and figure out my college classes, my career, maintain friendships, be with my family, and even try to find a husband in this mess (yikes), God is holding my hand and He’s never letting go. He’s continually teaching me and guiding me through every day and every situation. As I’ve been reflecting on my life and the obstacles I’ve overcome and the mistakes I’ve made, God has been showing me over and over that these situations possess important lessons He wants me to learn. Some of the things I need to learn were caused by my own naïveté and poor decisions, and others are circumstances He’s intentionally placed in my life to grow me. Romans 5:3-5 says, “…but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” Let me tell ya, God is an awesome teacher. A lot of my past circumstances that have been brought to the front of my mind usually bother me to think about because I never can think of an actual reason to have had those things happen in my life. But the more and more I’ve poured myself into God’s word, the more clear it’s become to me.

Many things happen in our lives simply because we need to learn something, then grow from it.

Romans 8:28 says, “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” Brothers and sisters, God is continually woven into your lives so that He can continue to mold you into who you are through Him. And yes, this means even in the bad times, God is shaping you to look more like Him; you need only to seek Him. God is both a good father and a good teacher to His children. As obvious as this is, God has predominantly been teaching me and reminding me of His great faithfulness. I have made decisions to enter into bad and unhealthy relationships, I have made decisions that have led to catastrophic sins with an even worse outcome, I have made decisions that have broken the hearts of those who love, and even worse, they have broken the heart of my loving and holy Heavenly Father.

But He is still faithful, and He is still good.

The picture you see of the double rainbow is something that hit me hard and heavy when I saw it. I live in West Texas and our weather is very, very unpredictable. One evening we had an insanely intense storm hit that damaged homes, barns, cars, and trees. But after this frightening storm, there was a full double rainbow clear as day, and so beautiful that I was almost brought to tears. As I looked at the rainbow, I continually heard God saying, “You see? I have and always will be faithful to my children.” Genesis 9:13 says, “I have set my bow in the cloud, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and the earth.” Thousands of years ago, God made a promise to His people that He would never flood the entire earth again, and placed a rainbow in the sky to serve as a reminder to His promise. How amazing is it that we are blessed enough to be loved by a God that assures us of His faithfulness from generation to generation?

Of all things to be taught at this point in my life, I’m thankful that The Lesson Planner is teaching me of His never-ending faithfulness. He is good.


The Spirit of Christmas

“‘Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse…”

Christmas is often associated with gifts and family, friends and hot chocolate, joy and snow-filled days. Christmas can also be a stressful time as last-minute shopping calls for a tight schedule, followed by the counting and recounting of the presents under the tree to make sure every family member is accounted for. And for some, Christmas is a time of sadness as loved ones that have been called home are remembered and memories are retold while sitting around the fire. While Christmas has a different meaning to everybody around the world, there is, however, one universal message during the holidays.

Without Jesus, there would be no Christmas.

“Away in a Manger” and “Silent Night” aren’t just carols sung for entertainment. These songs depict the coming of the Savior of the world-the Savior of you and me- born of a virgin in a stable. The story of the birth of Jesus is recited most during this time of year, but I think one fact is often forgotten: Jesus IS God. The God of the entire universe humbled Himself, and came to Earth as a man with the sole purpose to die as a sacrifice for His creation. That’s how much God loves us.

“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.” John 3:16

God sent a portion of Himself, His son, into the world not to condemn it but to save it. Jesus, the Prince of Peace, became the light in a dark world, and now we have that light in us as a gift when we receive that salvation from God. So yes, Christmas includes gifts, family, friends, carols, and joy, but Christmas is Jesus.

Let us remember with joyful hearts that Jesus is the reason for the season. Let there be peace on Earth, and let it begin with me.

Kept in the Dark

Just a few days ago I was driving home from the local coffee shop in my hometown. Over the couple of hours that I was there a dense fog had settled, and I could only see about ten yards in front of me. I was totally surrounded by darkness. And as cliché as it may sound, I realized that driving in the fog is a lot like my life at the moment.
Let me back up here.
I’m a sophomore in college, and I attend the local Christian university where I live. Like most college students, I haven’t a clue about what my future holds, what I wanna do with my life, or even where I’ll be in two years, which brings me to the fog. When thinking about my future, I realize I can only see a small timeframe in front of me (this naturally makes me panic because I hate the unknown and the “what ifs”). But at the same time, I think God designed life to be this way for a reason. You see, while I was driving in the fog, I had to rely on the light to see only what was directly in front of me. I couldn’t focus on something a mile down the road, nor could I see very far to the right or left. I had to depend and trust only the light that was shed a few feet in front of me, causing me to stay completely focused on the road.
That’s how God wants us to be with Him.
During the college years, the unknown can be overwhelming. We feel that we need to know our career, where we want to live, what we want to study. And it doesn’t help that society often times pressures us to have it all figured out. Being vulnerable and admitting we don’t have it all together is shunned and can be viewed as a sign of weakness. But God, the God who formed us and loves us, has created this life and everything in it so that we must trust Him and depend on Him to show us the way. We may not always see where the road we’re on is taking us, but that’s okay. God sees the entire road ahead of us, but only reveals portions of it to us as we go along. And in return, it is best to cling to Him and trust His guidance. Jeremiah 29:11 says, “‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’”

The unknown can be scary.
But sometimes it’s okay to be kept in the dark.

Breaking Down Grace

What is Grace?

According to the Dictionary, the definition of grace is “a manifestation of favor, especially by a superior” and “mercy; clemency; pardon.”
How that applies to the Christian lifestyle is that of God’s grace that he gives to His children. We are a broken and sinful creation, and through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, God is able to extend His grace to us to bring us back to Him. Grace is a gift from God- no strings attached.

What does God’s Grace do to us?

God’s grace brings us back to Him, even when we don’t deserve it. In reality, nobody on this earth deserves grace because we are far from perfect and holy, but that’s what makes grace such an amazing gift from God. In order to obtain this wonderful gift, Jesus Christ was sent as a sacrifice, as stated above. In Romans chapter 5 verses 1 and 2, Paul writes, “ Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand.” Paul explains here that Jesus Christ is the sole reason we can stand in the grace that God gives. Furthermore, in Ephesians 2: 8-9, Paul writes, “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.” This leads us to understand that there is nothing I can do to earn God’s grace, mercy, love, and acceptance- it is a gift that we can only accept with open arms because of our faith, and return with praise and thanksgiving. Accepting Christ as our Savior leads us into a life overflowing with grace.

How is God’s grace related to our freedom?

God’s grace is our freedom. Galatians 5:1 states, “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.” Because Jesus Christ’s sacrifice leads us to the grace of God, it also leads us to the freedom that is found in grace. The “yoke of slavery” is the life we lived before we found grace and freedom in our relationship with God. Also, in Acts 13: 38-39, Luke writes, “Therefore, my friends, I want you to know that through Jesus the forgiveness of our sins is proclaimed to you. Through him everyone who believes is set free from every sin, a justification you were not able to obtain under the law of Moses.” This passage clearly states the fact that through our faith in Christ, we are set free from past sins and the guilt associated with them. And through our faith in Jesus Christ, we receive God’s grace as a gift. Lastly, Colossians 1:21-23 states, “Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior. But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation…” Because of the Jesus’ sacrifice, we are able to be holy and pure in God’s sight, which leads us to a life full of freedom and grace. Before Christ’s sacrifice, we literally were not able to come into God’s presence because of how impure we were in comparison to Him. But now we are free to enter into an open relationship with God because of the amazing sacrifice that has been made for us.

Can a person who sins a lot fall out of God’s grace?

I believe that if the person is a Christian, and continues to pursue God in all aspects, then no, he or she will not fall out of God’s grace. Everybody sins, including even the most devout Christian. Paul confesses in Romans 7: 7-25 that he does what he hates, and does not do what he wants to do. Our human nature and spiritual nature are constantly at war with one another, and this passage in scripture embodies this battle that is constantly fought in a Christian’s life. In Romans 5: 6-11, Paul writes, “You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through Him! For if, while we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life! Not only is this so, but we also boast in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.” The main point of this passage is to explain that while we were considered unholy and unworthy, Christ was still sacrificed for us so that we can be drawn back to God. If God found us worthy and loved us at our darkness, imagine how much more we can live freely now that we have received redemption!  As a side note, this is also where repentance comes into consideration. Repentance is an extremely important act when one has sinned. Repentance is literally turning away from something, therefore it is often associated as a one time occurrence. However, that is not true. Repentance is a constant thing when maintaining a relationship with God. Through repentance, we can return to God and receive the grace and forgiveness from Him that brings us freedom from guilt and shame. Lastly, in Romans 8: 38-39, Paul writes, “For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” There is nothing in this world that can separate us from God. There is nothing we can do to make him love us any less.