Jesus in us//Nita//Cru Valor

Lately I have been reading the Gospel of John for my quiet times.  I love reading the gospels and wondering what it might have been like to follow Jesus during His time on earth. Would I have joined the group of helpful women who followed the band of disciples and Jesus?  Would I have sat with Mary to listen to Jesus teach? Would I have been brave or desperate enough to touch the hem of Jesus’ robe to be healed?
This Jesus lives now in every believer.  Do I remember that often enough?  Probably not, but I want to.
But back to John.  Chapters 13-17 are the final teachings that Jesus gave to His disciples before He was arrested, tried, and crucified.  I imagine that for years to come the disciples thought back on this time with their Savior and His last words to them.  Last words are indeed important to pay attention to.
 While reading chapter 14 I was struck by the number of dramatic, eternally valuable statements that Jesus makes.  I will share a few things that particularly stand out to me – they are part of my story of finding Jesus as my Savior.
John 14:1-3 Jesus promises to prepare a place for us forever, He promises He will come again, and we will be with Him for all eternity.  Until I got involved in Cru during my college years, I always hoped but was never sure I had eternal life. 
John 14:6 This is a bold statement by Jesus and so important for us to understand.  Why is Jesus the only way to the Father?  As a student at VA Tech many years ago, I asked God this question very sincerely.  It was in reading John that I found the answers.
John 14:12-14 Read these verses slowly and believe that Jesus truly wants to live His life through you and me.  Amazing! Jesus and God the Father and the Holy Spirit in me!
John 14:16-17, 26 The promise of the Holy Spirit to live in us, to help us, to teach us.

John 14:27 “Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your heart be troubled, not let it be afraid.”  I was so afraid as a freshman: would I choose the right major? Would I have a job when I graduated?  Would I meet the right man and get married? Would I ever stop being anxious?  This peace that Jesus gives is stronger than all those fears.  He changed my life.

 Growing up in a wonderful Christian family, I left for college thinking I had a strong faith in God.  During my first two years at Tech I realized that my knowledge of God needed to become personal; I needed to really know who Jesus is and the ministry of His Holy Spirit.  Someone challenged me to read the Gospel of John and ask God to show me about Himself and what is true.  I did read John then and He did show me!  My life has never been the same. I still love reading the Gospel of John.
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Nita is a graduate of VA Tech, joined Cru staff in 1972, and has served with Cru in New England and several areas of the world as well as with Cru Military.  Presently she serves with Cru Valor as a part of the National Leader Team.  She loves family, reading, gardening and her dog Lucy.

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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