Cast Your Burdens on God Because He Is Your Dad

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As a child, I had a serious addiction: quarter vending machines. I now realize that these machines’ prizes are not actually worth a quarter, but a decade ago I adored them. My parents would generously take me to the store just for the quarter machines. The little things in life can bring a surprising amount of pleasure, like the killer collection of bouncy balls and animal pencil toppers that I accumulated.

The only problem with a quarter machine addiction is it requires an ample reserve of quarters. As a little kid, I always wanted to have all my quarters available in case we ran across a quarter machine, but I did not want to lug around my ultra-heavy sparkly purple purse. So what did I do? I took advantage of my generous parents and cast my purse onto them to carry.

I felt no hesitation whatsoever to throw my heavy burden onto my parents. Why? Because I know that they love me unconditionally and want to help me.

This carefree casting of a weighty burden reminds me of our relationship with God.  1 Peter 5:7 tells us that we should be casting all our cares upon God because He cares for us. In Romans 8:15, Paul tells believers that God has given us an invitation to call Him Father. And as a loving Father, God wants to care for us and take our burdens away from us. God was not forced to become our Father. According to 2 Thessalonians 2:13, He willingly chose to adopt us, paying the ultimate price for our redemption. He was not pressured into saving us, but rather joyfully chooses to love us.

We can boldly approach the throne of grace just like a little kid approaches their parents when they want something. We do not need to analyze our request to ensure that it is important enough for our Father’s attention. He has ample time and attention, enough to number the hairs on our heads (Luke 12:6-7). As frivolous as it sounds, He even has the time and attention to keep track of all the birds in every corner of the planet (Luke 12:6-7). God cares enough about His creation to be intimately involved. If God cares enough to track all the birds, don’t you think He cares enough about us to keep track of our lives?

Jesus paints a beautiful picture of Him carrying our burdens in Matthew 11:28-30 when He says “Come to Me, all [you] 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.” God’s goodness extends beyond just taking our burdens off our shoulders. He exchanges our burdens with blessings. Psalm 68:19 says that God daily loads us with benefits. God’s overabundant love is shown in His extravagant care for us.

When I am weighed down by the burdens of adult life, I should remember the carefree kid version of myself. Back then, I had no problem thrusting my problems onto my parents. Now that I am an adult, I should willingly cast my cares onto God, who loves me and cares for me. After all, God never expects us to handle our burdens because He knows that only He is strong enough to make our heavy cares light.

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God’s Sunshine Illuminates Our Path

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The Bible is full of rich revelations just waiting for our discovery. One day, I realized that I had overlooked the power in Psalm 84:11, which says, “For the Lord God is a sun and shield; The Lord will give grace and glory; No good thing will He withhold form those who walk uprightly.” While the entire verse is amazing, one phrase jumped out to me: “the Lord is a sun”. It is so easy to speed read over this powerful phrase, but when we stop to meditate, we realize the importance it can hold in our lives. After all, the sun holds many different aspects that we often take for granted….   

Guidance 

My least favorite part of the day is when my alarm clock goes off before the sun is up. It’s not so much the getting up that stinks, but rather stumbling around in the dark trying to find the light switch. We realize how much we need light in our daily lives when we try to function without it for a few minutes. Thankfully, God’s light prevents us from stumbling around in life. When we seek His direction, He shows us where to go and what to do. According to Psalm 119:105, God shows us the way through the light of His Word, “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.”

Protection 

We live in an undeniably dark world. But because the sun constantly resides within us, we do not have to be afraid. In fact, the light that we carry can make the world a little less dark. Because God’s light surrounds us, we do not ever have to be afraid. As Psalm 27:1 says, “The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?” Light protects us from danger. It gives us guidance in life, showing us which decisions may lead to danger in the future. In Proverbs 4:18-19 God promises to guide the righteous, but hinder the wicked, saying, “but the path of the just is like the shining sun, that shines ever brighter unto perfect day. The way of the wicked is like darkness; They do not know what makes them stumble.”  

Clarity 

God’s light not only protects us from dangerous situations; it also clarifies confusing issues. God’s light dispels the murkiness of confusion in both our personal lives and the church. This clarity provides clarity amid a confusing world. As 1 Corinthians 14:33 says, “For God is not the author of confusion but of peace, as in all the churches of the saints.” In John 11:9-10, Jesus tells His disciples that if they walk in the light, then they will not stumble around in the murkiness. When we do not know what to do or what to think, we can depend on God’s peace to give us clarity in the confusion.   

Best of all, we can share these attributes of the sun with the people around us! The sun in us is bright and noticeable. It is our testimony of what God has done and is doing in our lives. Jesus says in Matthew 5:16, “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.” It is impossible to hide the physical sun; thus we should never cover up the sun in ourselves. We did not light ourselves. Rather, God sparked our candle so that we might reflect Him in the world. As we follow God’s light on our path, we can lead others in the way of life.  

Rebirthing – Precisely What We Need

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Oftentimes psychology perceives man’s deepest needs but fails to provide sufficient solutions to the problems. I discovered an example of this last year during my college psychology course. As I was reading the textbook, I stumbled upon a fascinating, yet troubling, psychotherapy treatment called “rebirthing”. My textbook briefly defined the steps of rebirthing as, “Reenacting your own birth, screaming, having body parts manipulated” (1). Supposedly, this treatment is supposed to, “promote attachment and reduce traumas remaining from birth,” (1). The textbook also mentioned that this treatment is not considered to be scientifically sound.  

Although very controversial, rebirthing is common enough to gain the attention of large organizations like the National Center for Biotechnology Information and WebMD.  

At its best, rebirthing seems strange and nonsensical. At its worse, it is deadly. A ten year old girl died of asphyxiation after a 70 minute brutal session of rebirthing therapy where her therapists tried to simulate the birth experience. (2)  

While this treatment seems to be causing more harm than good, it is attempting to address a fundamental human need. We all need a fresh start.  

While reenacting one’s own birth is completely ineffective, there is a way to become completely brand new, irrespective of age. But this solution is not mental – it is spiritual. God recognized our need to be made new when He sent His Son Jesus to die for our sins.  

In the Gospels, Jesus even uses the terminology “born again” to describe the drastic transformation He offers all people. In John chapter three, Jesus is approached by a leader of the Jews named Nicodemus. Nicodemus wants to know more about Jesus and the way to salvation. Jesus tells Nicodemus in John 3:3 that, “unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” Nicodemus, startled, argues that no one can literally be born again. Jesus responds in John 3:5, saying, “unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.” Jesus was obviously not talking about physical rebirth, but a spiritual renewal. 

Rebirthing treatment is addressing one of the most fundamental needs of human beings – the need to be made new. In a way, psychotherapists have realized a fundamental truth that we have known for thousands of years. We really do need to be born again. We need to completely eradicate the scum of our old man and become a new creation as 1 Corinthians 5:17 says. While psychology may have recognized the issue, only Jesus can give people the chance to be born again. Psychology was on track in theory but mistaken in method. Nothing in this natural world can bring about a new start. Only spiritual transformation through Jesus can make people new.  

 

References  

1) Grison, S., Heatherton, T., & Gazzaniga, M. (2017). Psychology in your life (2nd ed.). New York, NY: Norton Publishing. 

2) Josefson, D. (2001). Rebirthing therapy banned after girl died in 70 minute struggle. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1174742/ 

The Spiritual Aspect of Caring for Our Bodies

vegetables-1085063_1920.jpgEating healthy is no easy task. America’s obesity rates prove that our culture is opposed to healthy eating and self-control. According to the CDC, 71.6% of American adults aged 20 and over are overweight or obese. Food has become an idol. Obviously, the numerous diet solutions, campaigns, and weight loss surgeries have not resulted in substantial, lasting change. Sticking with any diet plan is incredibly difficult in an adversarial culture. Thankfully, God cares deeply about our daily concerns and struggles, like taking care of our bodies. The Bible contains powerful truths that can embolden us to push against the culture of unhealthy eating and practice self-control in our eating habits.

  • Food does not offer true comfort.

Romans 14:17 tells us that, “the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.” Unfortunately, people often use food for comfort instead of depending on God’s peace. Calorie and fat laden foods are literally called “comfort foods”. We often seek emotional energy and strength from food, even when we have consumed sufficient calories. Our quest to attain emotional peace from food will never result in long term satisfaction. If we continue a habit of stress eating, the long term consequences will be downright dangerous. Thankfully, we do not have to count on food for comfort or energy. In John 14:27, Jesus promises His followers an incredible gift: “Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.” Unlike comfort foods, Jesus’ peace is everlasting and does not include weight gain.

  • Discipline equals long term rewards.

Hebrews 12:11 says, “No discipline is enjoyable while it is happening–it’s painful! But afterward there will be a peaceful harvest of right living for those who are trained in this way.” (NLT) Resisting treats is never fun, but the end result is always worth the temporary discomfort. Programs like Weight Watchers fail because they mistakenly attempt to eliminate the discomfort associated with losing weight. After one of my friends signed up for Weight Watchers, I walked into her kitchen to see packs of chocolate chip cookies and cheese puffs, all bearing the Weight Watchers label. Everything included in the Weight Watchers bundle was highly processed. In an effort to make shedding pounds painless, Weight Watchers is missing the point. With portion control and a regimented plan, it is possible to lose weight eating processed foods, but this deprives the body of essential nutrients that are only found in fresh foods. Taking care of our bodies and eating nutritious foods can be difficult and time consuming, but the rewards of a healthy body and sharp mind will save us time (and hospital bills) down the road.

  • Avoid temptation.

Romans 13:14 says, “But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to fulfill its lusts.” To put this in modern day language, if there are Oreos in your home, than you will eat Oreos. Self-control consists primarily of establishing boundaries before temptations arise. Having a plan enables us to say no as soon as the temptation arises. During my year of being seventeen, I did not eat desserts or candy. Knowing that sweets were off limits before I attended events or celebrations empowered me to resist the temptation when the dessert table came into sight. Having a plan is essential to sustaining self-discipline. Creating boundaries for ourselves before encountering the temptation strengthens our self-control in the heat of the moment.

We are not alone in the fight to protect and nourish our bodies. God knows that we need strength outside of conventional wisdom and common sense. God’s word not only provides spiritual wisdom, it also gives us practical advice to handle our daily issues like eating. Jesus knows our weaknesses and has provided strength to overcome our own bad habits. The Bible’s spiritual truths are the best guide for navigating all of life’s decisions, including how we should care for our bodies.

 

Lessons Learned from My First Semester of College

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My first semester of college was an exhilarating experience full of challenging assignments, new friends, interesting professors, and yummy food. It was a growing process that presented numerous opportunities for self-improvement. Being a college student has taught me many practical skills, such as networking and going the extra mile. I discovered that college is more about developing a hard work ethic and positive habits than the material learned in class. I have come away with many lessons that I wish I had known before college started and will now strive to implement on the rest of my journey.

Beware of the money suckers

Financial and health dangers lurk on college campuses in the form of food. Fast food restaurants know that college students are perhaps the most susceptible target audience. While I did not buy many full meals because I packed my lunches, the vending machines and convenience stores on campus regularly captured me. I do not have advice on how to avoid this since I have not found the silver bullet yet: I just thought I should warn you.

Schedules are really important

Because I am a commuter, I am only at campus on Tuesdays and Thursdays. On those days, I have to be up by five in the morning. Unfortunately, this past semester I woke up between 7-8 the other days of the week. My main priority this semester is to develop a routine to combat last semester’s erratic sleep patterns. Scheduling school assignments is just as important as sleep schedules. I learned from trial and error that if three papers are all due on the same day, the work should definitely be spread out.

What is my motivation?

I am fiercely independent, sometimes to my own detriment. During college, I was trapped by the pursuit of seeking my own credit. I wanted to be fully responsible for the outcome of my work, and I wanted the credit as a reward for this responsibility. But my self-sufficient attitude blocked me from receiving God’s help. I sought my own credit in my own strength when I was supposed to be seeking God’s glory. Through trial and error, I learned that when I act in God’s strength, He receives the glory instead of me, and that is exactly how it should be. I mistakenly believed that if I asked for help, either from people or God, it would almost be like I cheated. I so badly want to say I did it on my own, which is wrong. It is unbelievably easy to burn out, especially towards the end of the semester. The feeling of exhaustion can be felt around campus as everyone seems to be worn thin. The remedy to burn out is to remember the purpose of school is to glorify God, to do all things unto the Lord, and to depend on His strength.

Show Extra Effort and Avoid Shortcuts

Most of my classmates only attended class to earn participation credit, take notes, and then leave as soon as possible. Students with this attitude will not enjoy the fullness of college. Being fully engaged makes the material more interesting and easier to master. For instance, in sociology I discovered that I enjoyed engaging my mind to think of connections in the real world. Because I interacted in class and asked the instructor questions, I retained more information (and thus avoid extra studying outside of class). Being engaged also helped me to discover that I learn best when I connect the material to an example in my mind. Thus, in class I spend more time making connections that taking notes.

In a culture where Google searches are the most common form of research, it is tempting to constantly take the quickest route possible. After struggling to complete a worksheet with scanty internet information, I finally buckled down and found a documentary on my university’s library. I thoroughly enjoyed the documentary, as opposed to my rather boring Googling. Being thorough and detail oriented is time consuming, but it is well worth it in the end.

Be friendly

Being an extreme extrovert, I went to college with the determination to make connections. I completely lost track of how many people I introduced myself to, especially during the first week. On my first day, I approached the dean of the honors college which was an excellent opportunity and connection. A few weeks later, I struck up a conversation with a fellow student in the library restroom and had the opportunity to tell her about a book that was related to here future goals. Showing interest in people shows that we care about them. As Proverbs 18:24 points out, “A man who has friends must himself be friendly.” College is a training ground for professional networking and future full time work. But more importantly, college is far more enjoyable with friends.

Keep outside interests alive  

College can turn learning into a mundane, uniform process, when learning is actually fascinating and life changing. One day as I was walking around the library, I discovered a book about the Nuremberg trials after World War 2. I thoroughly enjoyed the productive diversion from my normal school tasks. I realized that I had completely pushed aside my own personal research projects in the pursuit of good grades. It is a struggle to find a stopping point as there is always more studying that can be done. At certain times, I had to force myself to take a break. During the school semester, I taught public speaking classes, volunteered at a homeless feeding ministry, and packed Operation Christmas Child boxes. These activities were a brief, refreshing break from schoolwork. They also helped me to stay connected to people outside of my normal school sphere.

During my first semester, I began to learn how to apply the knowledge I gained in class to real life. Thinking critically during college gave me the opportunity to not just memorize and learn, but to understand the world a little better. College is also an excellent opportunity to practice having a good attitude even during poor circumstances. With my second semester starting tomorrow, I am excited to embrace all the new challenges and adventures!

 

Facing Evil

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The true strength of a person’s character is tested when evil descends. Extraordinary faith and hope are required to stand strong while fighting against evil. Ignoring the problem through blissful ignorance is easy. The majority of people take this route. The heroes who charge against evil face consequences and danger in this world, but great rewards in heaven. We can learn about courage and hope from those in history who were faced with gut wrenching circumstances and responded with jaw dropping bravery.

The Choice: Ignore Evil or Confront It

When the Nazis invaded and occupied the Netherlands, the nation’s residents were faced with a choice. Would they submit to the new rules, or would they stand with God and thus stand against the world? At first, sliding under the radar was fairly easy, but as the Nazis became more brutal, tough decisions had to be made. Soon college students were forced to sign a sheet pledging their allegiance to the Nazis to remain in school. If they refused, they would have to go into hiding or risk being captured by the Nazis.

The worst was yet to come. The Nazis began herding up the Jews in the Netherlands and sending them to the death camps. Christians were faced with a tough choice: Would they resist this slaughter of the innocent at their own personal risk?

Sadly, many Christians remained as neutral as possible.  Some Dutch churches were famous for singing louder as the trains with Jews passed in order to drown out the cries of hundreds of innocent people riding to their deaths. They chose to protect their own comfortable existence rather than give heed to the brutality surrounding them.

However, there were people who decided to risk it all for the lives of strangers. They plunged full force into underground resistance operations and began hiding Jews and other endangered people in their homes, at risk of their own lives.

The Christians of World War two did not see an end to the immense darkness pervading their country.  Whenever hopeful news would come over the radio, the rescue would eventually fall through. Even though the situation seemed hopeless, they kept faithfully resisting, and this eventually led to break through and the end of the war.

What will we do?

I sometimes wonder how I would have responded to evil had I lived during one of the most trying times in history, such as during World War II. I desperately hope that I would have taken the correct action when under pressure. What I wouldn’t pay for the opportunity to become acquainted with and learn from the brave members of the underground who knew the meaning of “there is no greater love than this, that a man will lay down his life for his friend”.

However, a trip back in history is not necessary in order to take a stand against evil. And as for learning from history’s courageous heroes, we can become intimately acquainted with their struggles and victories through the written works they have left behind. Right now, we are all faced with the same question that the World War two resistance fighters faced sixty years ago: will we take a stand against evil, or will we turn our heads and ignore the problem. Will we risk our own welfare to fulfill what God wants of us?

May we not be like the Dutch churches that drowned out the sounds of human suffering in order to protect their comfortable, safe lives.

May we have the courage to confront evil full force with the truth and the power of God’s Word.

May we be able to face the consequences, danger, and discomfort of combating evil with selfless bravery.

May we follow in the footsteps of those who have come before us, who risked it all to face evil, and in doing so, protect the life of another.

A Society That Envies Animals

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Advertisements portray a society’s deeper beliefs. One Banfield pet hospital advertisement captured my attention and concerned me because it portrays a deeper worldview which has pervaded our culture. Here is the narration from the video:

“The challenge with being a human animal is we add a whole lot of junk on top of just being an animal who can exist and be happy. We make things more complicated, and when we get to be just at home with our pets . . . it allows us to just get back to the simple, pleasurable things that come with having a small furry animal curled up on your lap . . .  And I think pets really just connect us to who we want to be at our core.”

At first appearance this advertisement seems innocent, but it highlights three lies that our culture has openly accepted. Thankfully, God’s truths are always ready to combat any lie that the world throws our way.

First Lie: “pets really just connect us to who we want to be at our core.”

Truth: Humans and animals were created fundamentally different.   

We are not human animals. We are crafted in the image of God. Genesis 1:27 says to this effect, “So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.” We are crafted by God, for God. We were never designed to descend to a lower, animalistic level. We are to draw closer to God, and drawing closer to God involves moving upwards. God not only originally created us (Psalm 139:13), but for those of us who have accepted Jesus, we are still a work in progress as Philippians 1:6 says, “being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ.”

Second Lie: “We make things more complicated, and when we get to be just at home with our pets . . . it allows us to just get back to the simple, pleasurable things”

Truth: We are to cope with stress by casting our burdens on God.

This video did capture one human sentiment very well: feeling overwhelmed. We live in a cooker pressure world. We are constantly told to strive more, achieve more, and earn more. We were not designed to handle the stress of this world- no wonder we just want to curl up with Fluffy or Fido and forget our responsibilities! We are designed to cast our burdens on the Lord (1 Peter 5:7) instead of crumbling underneath them. We can be strong even in the face of stress and trials because God is always with us, helping us in every moment.

Third Lie: “The challenge with being a human animal is we add a whole lot junk on top of just being an animal who can exist and be happy.”

Truth: Our purpose is to serve God and others, even when this makes us uncomfortable or unhappy.

Is the purpose of life simply to “exist and be happy”? Or is there something deeper? The fact of the matter is, humans will always serve something, whether that something is God, other people, or even ourselves. Whatever or whoever we place our affections on will determine the course of our lives. When we live self-sacrificially, serving God and those around us before ourselves, we discover a peace and a joy that could never be attained by serving ourselves.  Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “The purpose of life is not to be happy. It is to be useful, to be honorable, to be compassionate, to have it make some difference that you have lived and lived well.”

Our pets do not lead a life that we should envy. Even though being human entails responsibilities, work, and even burdens, it also includes many God given privileges. We have been given the gift of direct connection with God, something our animals will never achieve. While life can seem stressful and chaotic at times, we have an incomparable peace from God that remains constant-regardless of the circumstances.  We have the opportunity to serve God and others, thus finding joy outside of ourselves. God designed human life to be full, wonderful, and purposefully different from the creatures surrounding us.