The Joy of Looking Back//Sarah//VCU

So I don’t think it was a coincidence that I finished writing on the last page of my journal this morning. (Every Jesus lovin’ girl needs a cute journal, am I right?) One of my favorite parts of using a journal along with my Bible to study scripture and pray is the chance to look back and see how God has worked and how He is molding my heart throughout the pages. So today, I want to be a bit honest with you and let you take a glimpse of what I have written on these pages over the last few months.

     As I flip through the pages of my “written-down” walk with Jesus, I see over and over again a common theme- the gospel. Simply, complexly- the gospel.

     “I’ve tasted and seen of the sweetest of loves, where my heart becomes free and my shame is undone”— have you ever caught that part of ‘Holy Spirit’? (First, if you have no idea what song I am talking about, bless your heart. Go look it up. Kari Jobe’s version. She sings like an angel. You’re welcome.) But really- I feel as though that could be the background music of my journal. Within these pages I have been stretched, defeated, raw with emotion, broken, delighted, ashamed, and joyful, but all sitting before the throne of the One who created me.
Every season of my college career, I have seen the gospel take on a new meaning and come alive in a new way. I’ve watched how the Lord has revealed how I am self-sufficient, self-pleasing, self-conscious and self-righteous and every other ugly thing in my heart. I have tried to satisfy my longing for intimacy with the Him with countless things- running, food, friends, busy ministry things and my sweet guy- Evan. I have learned how they can fill me, with immensejoy, but they do not make me full. I can only run so many miles, I can only eat so many cakes, and though Evan is one of God’s greatest blessings in my life, he is not the Ultimate Lover of my heart.

     In these months, on these pages, I have studied scripture like I never have before- mostly because I lead my first group of high school girls in study of John (And can I just say-HOLEY MOLEY!). But scripture after scripture, Old Testament or New Testament, all point to Jesus and with Jesus comes the cross. The cross has changed everything for me. In light of the cross and the fact that Jesus laid His life down for me, because of my sin and desperate need of a relationship with Him, everything changes. When the gospel goes from being just head knowledge to heart knowledge, you feel the grace of God literally wash over you. I sometimes feel like I am in the deep end of it, without my floaties.

     Ephesians 2:1-10 continually rocks my socks off and has been written and rewritten on my journal’s pages: “And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world… among who we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. BUT GOD, being rich in mercy, because the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ- by grace you have been saved.” But God” has become one of my favorite phrases.

Jesus shows you His character and His grace throughout His word. I don’t know about you but the desires of my heart and the desires of my flesh are strong but the Lord is way stronger. Jesus brings strength to my weakness and healing to my brokenness (another fav- 2 Corinthians 12:9). When you realize how honestly ugly your sin is, the gospel becomes what it actually means, “good news”. Even as I have walked with Jesus these last few months I have seen how sin and the enemy likes to think he has control of my life, but my sweet Jesus defeated you on the cross and three days later when He walked out of the grave, buddy. BUT GOD.

 Because of His grace to us, we are redeemed and made whole, with a joy and passion for the gospel only the Lord can give. We are given the Spirit of God in us, to continually draw us in to our Creator and to remind us of this life altering grace He gives us. I have seen how the gospel is not just an Easter thing or a Christmas thing, it’s a day-by-day, moment-by-moment thing. Jesus hung on the cross for me and for you, do you see that? For us today, this morning, tonight, tomorrow and for all of our days to come.

I can attest and so can my little journal with the hot-air balloon on the front, to how sweet the love of Jesus is, how the cross frees me to be broken before a Holy God, but healed and made holy by my Redeemer. I want to encourage you first to purchase a journal if you don’t have one, and secondly study scripture like you never have before, whether that means reading the word of God for the first time or the millionth time. It will show you what I am talking about, friend. His love is sweet, His grace is abounding and the gospel changes everything.

Hi there! I am Sarah Houchins! I wrote what you just read! I am a junior, psychology student at VCU and love the city more than I ever thought I would. So much so that I run all through it, as much as my legs allow. Love me some Ukrop’s cake. Love writing. Love my big God. Love Cru. And love YOU! Thanks for reading! 

But God… {{Laura}}

The other morning I was sitting outside on my porch with my coffee and Bible and journal and I was reading and writing. It’s shaded in the mornings so I love to sit there before it gets too warm and I can soak up all the fresh air before feeling cooped up in air conditioning all day. I love, love, love that time in the morning! And from the outside it always feels so picturesque and perfect. But the things running through my mind can sometimes be so far from that because…well, that’s life. Right? Seasons of joy and seasons of hardship, but even in seasons of joy there can be really hard things. 

Anyways, my mind naturally wandered to hard things in my life and in those around me: illnesses, struggling marriages, eating disorders, anxiety, depression, finance issues… 

Eventually I moved to writing down dreams that I really want to see the Lord fulfill: relationships with my neighbors, a movement of missional professors, freshman searching for God, my friends to walk closely with the Lord…

And all these things left me feeling overwhelmed. Burdened. Sad. Stressed. Until I remembered one key phrase from Scripture… 

But God

“27 The people of Jerusalem and their rulers did not recognize Jesus, yet in condemning him they fulfilled the words of the prophets that are read every Sabbath. 28 Though they found no proper ground for a death sentence, they asked Pilate to have him executed. 29 When they had carried out all that was written about him, they took him down from the cross and laid him in a tomb. 30 But God raised him from the dead” (Acts 13:27-30)

“And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world…But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ” (Ephesians 2:1-5)

“For one will scarcely die for a righteous person–though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die–but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:7-8)

“For consider your calling, brothers; not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong.” (1 Corinthians 1:26-27)

Things may seem hopeless, lifeless, or destined to continue in hardship. BUT GOD is rich in mercy, love, compassion, justice, wisdom, truth, and power… to name a few. So I can claim hope rather then despair, peace rather than fear, and compassion rather than anger because of Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit living in me. 

So I’ve been trying this past week to simply say “But God” when I begin to lose sight of the hope. Sometimes my thoughts go on a little rabbit trail of things and saying “but God” interrupts them and shifts my focus from myself to the power of God. It’s lead to me praying for “but God” moments–a time when God intervenes and takes things the complete opposite direction. After all, that’s the Gospel. We were headed towards death in the chaos of our sin, BUT GOD intervened and gave us life. Thank you Lord! 

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Great IS His Faithfulness//Lindsey Tate//CNU

“Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.”
Hebrews 11:1
Quick! When was the last time you were nervous, anxious, or worried? I bet you could think of a few examples right on the spot. It could be about anything really…school, a job, a relationship, or how about a big one…THE FUTURE. This is a question I find myself getting so caught up in. Before giving something to The Lord, I instinctively turn to myself for answers rather than waiting for God’s plan to unfold. Recently, I’ve been reminded on how incredible God’s faithfulness is and how it has shown through two recent events in my life.
“Great is Thy faithfulness!” “Great is Thy faithfulness!”
Morning by morning new mercies I see;
All I have needed Thy hand hath provided-
“Great is Thy faithfulness,” Lord, unto me!
If someone had sat me down and played a slideshow of my freshman and sophomore years in college around this time two years ago, I would not have believed that I was in the pictures. I had overwhelming anxiety about leaving for college. I was terrified to leave my family, friends and the comfort zone that I had wrapped myself in. I didn’t believe I would make such great friends or enjoy it as much as I have so far. Although I knew that college was something I needed to pursue, I had no idea how I would actually leave. Notice what pronoun I just used in that sentence. “I.” Somehow “I” would need to gain the strength. I believed that I would have to do it on my own, but instead God quickly showed me how much I would need to trust in him. Over the course of these two years God has quickly revealed his faithfulness in numerous ways. First, God has blessed me with incredible friendships, all of which are special and so dear to my heart. Second, he has lead me to Cru which has shown me the love of Christ and has helped me continue to grow my faith journey while at school and even while I’m home. Lastly (and quite obvious), he’s helped me make it this far. God has stood by my side as I have now finished my first two years of college (WOW).
“Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work with in us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.”
Ephesians 3:20-21
My church here at home is currently “under construction,” but not in the way you may think. We’re currently in a transition period, which includes searching for a new pastor and blending in modern aspects of worship while still holding true to our traditional values. We’ve been in this transitional period for a while now and we are not sure when it will be over. Although there is some uncertainty about the future of our church, our Interim Pastor encourages us to remain faithful in God’s timing. This past Sunday we started a series called “Standing Strong.” We started in Daniel Ch. 1 and will be continuing each week until Chapter 6. Throughout this series, Pastor Larry hopes to instill in our congregation that we are to stand strong in the Lord and live lives of conviction and commitment. In Chapter 1, Daniel chose to not defile himself by not eating the royal food and wine given by the King. Daniel stood strong and honored God with his decision. But think about it, that was Daniel’s second decision; his first was CHOOSING to honor God in ALL his choices and decisions. Did you catch that? That’s right, ALL of our decisions. I know personally, choosing to honor God in all my decisions can be difficult because of sin and temptation. I think in a lot of ways many of us struggle to honor God in our daily decisions. However, Daniel reminds us to walk the narrow road even though the wide road is easier and much more appealing. Daniel’s faithfulness to God amongst the trials he had in captivity lead to an eternal reward. Pastor Larry wants our church to react the same way. If we live our lives every day with the same conviction and commitment that Daniel did, God will bless us because HE IS FOREVER FAITHFUL. This life may not be easy, but it’s sure worth it. I have faith that God will remain steadfast and faithful through this transitional time at my church.
“Pardon for sin and a peace that endureth,
Thine own dear presence to cheer and to guide;
Strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow,
Blessings all mine, with ten thousand beside!”
My humble prayer is that we will all draw closer to God by relying fully on him. He promises to never leave us nor forsake us, even when we may feel the farthest away from him. Whatever we’re going through in life we can be assured that he has our back and is watching over us. Although things may not be certain, like our future career, relationships, etc, we can have complete peace and rest knowing that The Creator knows and has a perfect, holy and pleasing plan that leads us to incredible joy. God proved his faithfulness to me by leading me to great community at CNU. He is also proving his faithfulness by blessing our church with an Interim Pastor who helps guide us on our journey. Take time today to thank God for all the blessings he has given to you. Pray for strength and clarity as you seek to fully rely on him. He’s always there to listen.
 Hey y’all! My name is Lindsey Tate and I’m from a little town just north of Richmond called Ashland, Va. I am a Psychology major with a double minor in Leadership and Childhood Studies. My passion is elementary education so I will be applying to the Masters in Teaching Program that CNU offers this upcoming school year. Some of my hobbies include watching (and re-watching )episodes of Friends, playing piano, scrapbooking/crafting, exploring Pinterest, watching sports & most importantly spending time with family and friends. CNU and Cru have blessed me with some incredible friendships and I am so thankful for each of them. I had the privilege of co-leading a bible study last year and will have the humbling honor of co-leading again this year.