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We’re Not Perfect (but we know someone who is)

I used to live my life in pursuit of spiritual perfection. It was by the diligent duty of “Christian stuff” that I knew I would ensure God’s acceptance of me. Subconsciously I made a checklist of stuff that I needed to do (prayer, bible reading, fasting, going to church, not swearing, not lusting, not doing drugs or murdering anyone, and on and on). I believed that by my perfect actions I would deserve salvation and blessings from God.

Have you done that? The making of an unspoken list of stuff you should and shouldn’t do so that you will feel like a good person? Maybe you believe that in some way your worth in God’s eyes goes up, or down, depending on what you do or don’t do on that list?

The effect of living this way was crushing to me. I had created the front of being a “good guy”, people thought that I had it all together with Jesus. But behind the scenes I was failing at  almost everything on my list. I felt the need to maintain my facade of uprightness and so obviously I couldn’t talk to anyone about my struggles, so I faced the depression and shame alone. I was constantly weighed down with guilt, living my life as a true hypocrite. Far from perfect.

You too? When you slow down long enough to consider how your list is working out for you…what do you come up with? Is there stuff that you are not doing that you should be? How are you doing with the stuff you don’t want to do?

The struggle is real. Wanting to be perfect but not having the ability to make it happen. Paul, from the bible, knew this struggle very well (Romans 7:7-25). It’s somewhat comforting knowing that one of the greatest followers of Jesus lived with this tension as well. But more than being encouraged by his confession of imperfection are the words of hope that God speaks to us through him.

Romans 4:5 “And to the one who does not work but believes in him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness,”

2 Corinthians 5:21 “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”

So after almost a decade of failing at my list…I ditched it. The Holy Spirit had directed me to truths like these, through the bible, that were deeper and more real than anything else I had ever read. I stopped “working” the list and started letting Jesus make me right in Gods eyes. What a sweet thing freedom is after you have shouldered a heavy thing for many many years! Guilt was gone. I started being real with people and letting them help me confront the sin in my life. The unrealistic standard of perfection was seen for what it is, unattainable by my actions. No longer was I obsessed with what I can/can’t do, now I’m all about what Jesus has already done! Now when I pray or read my bible or go to church…I’m not trying to earn anything, or impress anyone. Now the burden of doing the list is gone and I’m free to do the things Jesus leads me to do.

You can have that freedom from your list too, through Jesus. We are all far from perfect. But Jesus lived a perfect life, and he gives that one to us. The only requirement is that we give him ours…for whatever it’s worth.

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Fall Prep

My wife and I are super excited for this fall semester! There are lots of reasons. Most call us weird for this…but we love it when the town gets overrun with 30,000+ students. As campus pastors we love students and want them all to experience life with Jesus in lots of fresh and authentic ways. We are also excited because our son, Silas James, is about to be born! Silas is already a cool dude and we can’t wait to meet him!

Lots of students, another baby. These are great things that make our hearts happy. We realize that to make this fall the best that it can possibly be…we need to prepare. We need to prepare for all the new and returning students. So we pray for God to be at work in their (your) life and ours. Another thing we do is make plans. Plans to help people experience the transforming work of the Holy Spirit in their lives. He changes us from the inside out! With Silas we are busy getting his room ready. Lots of painting, putting stuff together, painting, and a little bit of painting. Besides painting we are buying lots of diapers (hoarding them like preppers).

What about you? How are you getting ready for this fall? Let me suggest some great things that you can do right now as the end of August will be here soon.

Pray – #PRAYtheESPLANADE is a new focus of ours this year. Just talk to Jesus whenever you walk the Esplanade to participate. You can prepare for this by getting used to talking to Jesus right now throughout your day about all kinds of stuff.

Read – I shouldn’t have to convince you of the benefits of reading, so I won’t. Small is Big, and Slow is Fast is a book I hope all of us will read this coming semester (because you actually want to). All you Type A’s can get a head start before classes start up.

Devote – Spend time figuring out what Jesus wants you to do…then do that stuff. Dig deep though, don’t just settle with the surface stuff. Let the Holy Spirit put his finger on the stuff you don’t want to change, the stuff that’s not easy. Then commit to changing no matter the cost or how painful it may be. Surgery is not fun, but it helps us be healthy.

There is so much more to life than these three things! So don’t limit your fall prep in these ways, but by all means make sure you do something to get ready for a great school year. Love you all, lets hang out soon!

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Gods Calling, Are You Listening?

This morning I was reading through the first couple of chapters of Revelation. It’s here that Jesus is giving a very specific message to seven different churches. He both commends and condemns them in different ways. This is some really interesting stuff to read!

While reading I was reminded about something that God does, something that he is always doing. God is always speaking. He speaks not just in general terms (like “do good stuff today”), but he speaks into the really specific situations in our lives. When I say he “speaks” I don’t mean in an audible way (though we see him do that a handful of times in the Bible, Moses, Jesus, Paul). Rather he mostly speaks to us through the leading of the Holy Spirit. Our foundation for this is the Bible (written words he already spoke to his people – 2 Peter 1:21). As we read, the Holy Spirit illuminates truth to us about our life and the myriad of situations we find ourselves in. As we think through and pray to Jesus about those situations we begin to get a strong sense of what God is saying to us. The Holy Spirit is leading us as we “listen” to what God is calling us to do.

Something that I love is that God is calling all of us to do something specific. This is true for the short term goals of each day, and for the long term life-goals that we pursue. It really comes down to our action of listening and then doing. It takes time to listen to what God is calling us to do. We will have make listening to him a priority, we will need to give him space to speak into our lives. God is calling each of us to do something, will we take the time to listen and act?

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Best Summer Ever

You have made it to the last week of classes before finals. There is light at the end of the tunnel! Soon the weight of due dates and the monotony of class will give way to the bright freedom of summer. What unrealized joys will make themselves known as summer slowly unfolds its fresh experiences to us!?

Don’t be bored in Kent this year. There is more to do than work, go online, watch tv, and sleep. Make XA a part of your summer. We want to make life fun and we want to do life together. So starting May 22nd we are going to be hanging out each Friday night (starting around 6pm). The location will vary but food and good times will always be there. These Friday nights are just the start to a great summer with your XA family :) If you are in town this summer…lets get together!

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From Death Springs Life!

In his book “Miracles”, C.S. Lewis talks about an interesting relationship found in nature where life springs forth from death. Things die, and in their death life is made possible. I can quickly think of some examples. Consider how through death soil is fertilized, or how fruit gives way to seed, and how scorched forests make space for healthy young saplings.

This week in Kent has been a great reminder of that nature-truth as I walk around in the beauty of new life on campus. I have been noticing lots of plants as they begin their slow climb up through the autumn graves of their predecessors. I think about how life really does spring forth from death.

Lewis goes on to tell us that we should not be surprised at all of this. We should not think it strange because creation is simply reflecting what it has first seen in it’s creator Jesus Christ. You see from his death on the cross, burial in a tomb, and powerful  resurrection…life has truly come! Because Jesus died, and then beat death, we all have the opportunity to get right with God and truly live. Shame, guilt, painful addictions, unbearable emptiness all find their life filled counterparts through Jesus Christ. In him is freedom, joy, righteousness, and so much more! In him and through him is life.

Spend some time this week thinking about what it cost for this beautiful new life to thrive around us. Then spend some time this week observing this truth in Jesus. You can get started by reading Isaiah 53, Romans 5, and 2 Corinthians 5.

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Weekend Plans?

These next couple of weekends are packed for XA and we hope that you will be a part of it!

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For the Guys we have a statewide retreat with all of the Chi Alpha groups from around Ohio! We are going to camp out and manly man type of stuff (eat stuff, burn stuff, learn about Jesus stuff, etc…) It’s happening THIS WEEKEND so if you want to come click the graphic above to register (then let Jesse know).

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For the Ladies we have a statewide Chi Alpha retreat as well. Family Matters will have powerful teaching on what Jesus says about our identity as women, how that relates to family, and how we can mend the broken relationships we may have within our family. This is all happening NEXT WEEKEND! Click above to register.

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For Everyone in Kent XA we have our 30×30 gathering. It’s an investment of 30 hours to plan for the next school year (which is 30 weeks). We are going to pray together, make some great plans, and spend some time playing at Westbranch State Park. The cost is only $10 and includes food and good times :) We will start on April 25th at 9am and be done by 3pm the next day. Register today by signing up at Chi Alpha of Wedsnesday (or contacting Jesse). If you are interested in being more involved in helping make XA happen…then this is the event for you!

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Together for Jesus

This is one of my favorite weeks of the entire school year. All kinds of good things are happening :) The weather is finally getting to the point where I can go outside and not be afraid of dying before I reach my car. The birds are chirping and the squirrels are all crazy in love again. Coming back from spring break I have a new found energy and drive to push hard to the finish line in May!

I’m reminded of Paul’s words when he wrote to the Philippians about “straining forward to what lies ahead,” and “pressing on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” I remember that this isn’t the time to shrink back from what he has called us, as Christians, to do on this campus. That is, to reconcile students to Christ! There is still time to make more friends for Jesus, still time to have meaningful conversations about the truths of the gospel, still time to bring others to Chi Alpha, and still time for us to do the good things God has prepared for us to do.

Would you join with me in running hard for Jesus to the end of this semester? Let’s reach people for Jesus! I’m personally going to be going out and witnessing to people on campus during each week. Would you come with me? This will prove to be a great time of planting seeds for the gospel.

Additionally, will you commit to meet together as Chi Alpha these next 5 weeks? Something special happens when we prioritize relationships with brothers and sisters in Christ. Check out what the author of Hebrews says (10:24-25):

And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.

Something really good happens when we meet together as a group each Wednesday night in 319. We encourage each other to do life with Jesus. We realize that we are running this race for Jesus together and not alone. The truth of who are are in Christ gets us going in the right direction together, and that is a very powerful thing. Yes, you will have homework, jobs to work, group projects to get through, and about 99 other reasons that will try to keep you from meeting with us on a Wednesday night. However, you can overcome! I promise you that if you make XA a priority these remaining few weeks of the semester that your life will benefit from it.

Let’s do something great for Jesus! Let’s go reconcile students to Christ!