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Opinion: Truth Hurts

October 14, 2019

This past summer I was able to work with two separate camps, both having the overall mission of sharing the gospel with children and adolescents. Being immersed in that environment where those working around me were Christians and it being generally understood by everyone attending the camp that the Gospel was something that we openly talked about and shared, it became unusual for me to see any big time kick back towards the Gospel – after all, the kids attending these camps had signed up and paid for the camp knowing that they were going to a camp run by a youth ministry organization.

After two months of really not having my phone for that much, I randomly decided to get on Twitter. It just so happened that the first headline I saw was about Maraji sharing the Gospel and offending many people. Until that headline I had no idea who Maraji was; @Maraji_, as she is known on both Instagram and Twitter (which have 1.1 Million and 102.7k followers, respectively), is a popular Nigerian YouTuber and Social Media Influencer whose real name is Gloria Oluruntobi.1 Her followers, just like with any celebrity, range in backgrounds, ethnicities, and beliefs, so when Maraji took to her Instagram story to offer thoughts on faith, she offended many with a repost of Own the Truth Ministries’ (@ottministries) July 24, 2019 post that bore a picture of Fred Flintstone and the words “THERE IS ONLY ONE WAY TO HEAVEN[.] NO ALLAH, NO BUDDAH, NO KRISHNA, NO EVOLUTION, ONLY JESUS” followed by John 14:6 at the bottom of the post, which reads “Jesus answered, ‘I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.’”

Many took to Twitter to vocalize their outrage or disappointment: Gimba Kakanda (@gimbakakanda) noted that Maraji was “insensitive to her fans”, a user going under the name Olumide O.G (@OlumideOG) tweeted “Some opinions are best kept unsaid, and the fact that she chose Eid-El-Kabir of all days, very offensive, insensitive, and uncalled for.”, Iyorah Obehi Desirée (@Desireeiyorah) said “Why is it so impossible for some Christians to fathom the idea that theirs is not the only way??”; these were just a few of the many tweets against the content Maraji posted, while there were also a host of supporters as well.2

The tweets criticizing Maraji bring up some valid questions Christians must assess:

Should we still share the Gospel even if it offends people?

Should we just let people go on believing their faith to spare their feelings?

What’s wrong with people believing other things?

For starters, yes, we should share the Gospel even if it offends people. Bluntly, the Gospel is offensive; there is an acknowledgement that our best efforts to be good enough are not good enough for Heaven, we are sinners, and we are deserving of Hell. It’s offensive and it hurts, but the truth of the Gospel crashing into us wakes us up to our depravity, our lostness, and our need for a Savior, which points us to Jesus, the greatest truth of all. People going under other religious banners will likely be greatly offended by the statement that Jesus is the only way, which comes as no shock considering that if you are saying that then you are questioning the very ground they stand upon; it is Earth shattering to say that the faith you follow is wrong and another is right. Through that breaking down of a foundation a new structure can be built on which you can rely; you can exchange the sand for solid ground.

Many will likely say claiming that Jesus is the only way is bigoted and stubborn, denying the presence of absolute truth. As Dr. David R. Reagan writes, “The mantra of the Post-Modern Era is the statement, ‘There is no such thing as absolute truth.’ Truth is viewed as being relative. You have your truth, and I have mine, and neither of us have the right to declare that our truth is the absolute truth. This mantra is a lie. First of all, it is hypocritical. Think about it: When a person asserts there is no absolute truth, he is uttering an absolute truth statement! He is saying, ‘It is an absolute truth that there is no such thing as absolute truth.’ The statement is self-contradictory.”3 When we realize that Jesus truly is the Truth, we should be inclined to share the Truth to dispel all the lies.

Letting people go on in their beliefs just because we do not want to be potentially offensive or confrontational is not really an option. Just the other day I was throwing a football with some friends and with my untrained and quite inaccurate throwing arm I launched a pass that veered towards a professor walking by. Seeing the potential pain coming his way, I called out “heads!” to give him warning, not just letting him continue on his way. The same applies to our faith; if we see people heading towards doom as they are misled, the only loving thing we can do is tell them of the impending danger, the perils that lie ahead, and steer them towards what is good and true.

Some of the tweets against Maraji asserted that Christians believe that their way is the only way and that is ignorant; it is not arrogant to believe that biblical truth is the highest truth and that Jesus is the only way, it is brave to stand up for the truth as the world tries to deny the firm foundation upon which you stand. The assertion that there are multiple ways to Heaven (as in different faiths and following different gods will eventually lead you to the same place as all other faiths) is wrong; polytheism simply does not add up if a person thinks through the concept of God.

In Greek mythology, different gods ruled over different things (Poseidon was the god of the sea, Demeter was the goddess of agriculture, etc.) but being the god of just one or a few areas of existence implies limits and confines. With God, there is no limit – He is infinite, incomprehensible, and Holy. He is the Alpha and Omega, Sovereign, and Omniscient; “Remember the former things, those of long ago; I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me. I make known the end from the beginning, from ancient times, what is still to come. I say: My purpose will stand, and I will do all that I please” (Isaiah 46:9-10). God is King and the King welcomes into His Kingdom whom He wishes; those who try to find another way into the Kingdom except through the designed way of His Son will be sadly let down and disappointed. Denying that there are other ways to Heaven and accepting the fact that Jesus is the only way to the Father is part of salvation.

While Maraji did right in sharing biblical truth, the medium through which it was shared may not have been the wisest. With social media, for the most part, it is easy to misinterpret tone and you are usually limited in how long your message can be, which speaks to there being better methods of sharing the Gospel. From experience, and from observation, that best way to share the Gospel is to do life with people, come alongside people, develop a relationship with the person, and then speak truth and act out truth within their lives. When you have a relationship with someone you have built trust with, they are much more likely to listen to you, trusting that you have their best in mind. With strangers on the internet, there is little to no intimacy or trust between the two people, likely making it way less effective; this is not to say that someone cannot come to know the truth of the Gospel through the internet, but doing life alongside people sets up accountability, discipleship, and a host of other things.

Regardless of medium, we must be mindful of our rhetoric, tone, and the way we treat people before, during, and after sharing the Gospel with them. The truth hurts but that does not mean we have to shove it down people’s throats. Like medicine, sometimes it is better to spoon feed it to people; the important part is that they are getting what they need. Be gentle but unwavering from truth, firm but not strict, listening and not closeminded, proclaiming and sharing but not screaming. The truth hurts, it may even offend, but through both of those, there comes eye opening, realization, and healing.

Sources

1https://www.pulse.ng/gist/maraji-meet-the-nigerian-creative-who-turned-social-media-to-her-audience/y3vgxsc

2https://www.legit.ng/1253958-maraji-jesus-heaven-allah—comedian-says.html

3https://christinprophecy.org/articles/absolute-truth/


Written by: Landen Swain

Landen believes the human experience longs to be expressed; through our art, our labor, our songs, our storytelling. As a published playwright, author, and poet, he enjoys expressing his little chapter of the human experience through his writings and is thankful that the SA blog allows him to do that. He is published in numerous magazines, literary journals, and has several plays published by Off the Wall Plays, an online play publishing house.

My Take on Minimalism

October 8, 2019

Minimalism. At first mention, the word sounds fairly straightforward. I mean, it’s all about owning very few things and living a boring life, right? For a long time I sold this description as the only definition of what it means to participate in this social phenomena called minimalism. However, over this past summer I went through several life changes that made me put how I was living my daily life in perspective. Various thoughts such as What really matters to me? What do I find value in? Is my growth apparent to not just myself, but to others? swirled in my mind. These hypotheticals puzzled me and spurred me into more self-discovery. It was through this acknowledgment that I took a deeper dive into minimalism. Though I am nowhere near close enough to calling myself a minimalist, this journey of finding the true values in my life has been interesting to say the least.

The fascinating thing that I found in regard to the definition of minimalism is that there isn’t a fully set description of what it is. What is agreed upon, though, is what it’s not. Many of the experts’ opinions on this concept is that minimalism isn’t getting rid of all your possessions and living sparingly. Minimalism isn’t living like a monk and being boring. Colin Wright, author and full-time traveler, expounds upon this by saying “just giving away a bunch of things doesn’t make you a Minimalist any more than buying a statue of Buddha makes you a Buddhist or doing yoga makes you healthy.”1 These misconceptions are where I, and the majority of people, get stuck and stay thinking of these perceptions on minimalism. Why would someone want to get rid of nice things they own? To me, it just seemed as if it were an attention grab to let people know minimalists think of themselves more highly than others. While this is true in some cases, genuine minimalists don’t act in condescending ways at all. In fact, some of the most humble people that I personally know have employed a more minimalistic lifestyle.

To further preface my journey of discovery, I always like to look back at a friend I have that has been on my same dorm hall the past two years. I remember walking into his room for the first time and looking at his side of the room; it’s almost completely barren with a plain bed, no wall decorations, and a simple desk set up. I would also like to throw in that he uses a phone where you slide up to open the keyboard (you guys know the kind of phone I’m talking about). After seeing what little he had, I began to further observe his behavior and habits. This guy is genuinely one of the nicest and down to earth guys I know, always down to have intentional conversations, super into fitness and health, and overall just a great dude. It continues to amaze me how he conducts his life in such a humble manner and I believe it directly correlates to what he finds value in. Although he never mentioned being a minimalist, I find it extremely evident that he lives a minimalistic lifestyle. With all of this on my mind, I sought after what minimalism means to me.

Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus, authors and entertainers that bring awareness to minimalism, describe this way of life as “a tool that can assist you in finding freedom. Freedom from fear. Freedom from worry. Freedom from overwhelm. Freedom from guilt. Freedom from depression. Freedom from the trappings of the consumer culture we’ve built our lives around. Real freedom.”2 The concept of freedom, of liberation, is something that is human nature to search for. I find this intriguing because getting rid of things just to clear up space doesn’t mean you’re a minimalist. When you free yourself from the possession that your very own possessions have on you, breakthrough happens. This doesn’t just stop at material possessions either, but in other things we tend to give too much meaning to such as relationships or jobs. It is also important to know not to just abandon these things; rather, you have to realign your priorities to focus on healthy self-empowerment that produces lasting happiness – joy. Leo Babuata, writer of the blog Zen Habits, describes minimalism as “a way to escape the excesses of the world around us — the excesses of consumerism, material possessions, clutter, having too much to do, too much debt, too many distractions, too much noise. But too little meaning.”3

Now that I have a better understanding on minimalism, I recognize the vast opportunity I have to implement this lifestyle into my daily routine. Although I do love the clothes and cool technology I own, I am starting to let go of the high value I have on these things. I’m learning to live in the moment and focus on creating more while consuming less. Minimalism to me is genuinely appreciating all the blessings I have in my life. I have a long way to go, but I encourage you all to join me in this – let’s pursue the amazing life we’ve been blessed with together!

Sources

1 “Minimalism Explained.” Exile Lifestyle, 15 Sept. 2010,

https://exilelifestyle.com/minimalism-explained/.

2 Nicodemus, Ryan. “What Is Minimalism?” The Minimalists,

The Minimalists, 24 June 2019,

https://www.theminimalists.com/minimalism/.

3 “Mnmlist: Minimalist FAQs.” Mnmlist RSS,

https://mnmlist.com/minimalist-faqs/.


Written by: Alex Quan

Alex is a Junior Business Communications Major and enjoys writing for the blog because of the opportunity to express his thoughts and interests through the medium of a blog! It’s a healthy way to share his opinions with others and hopefully start a dialogue with them.

Book Review: Blue Like Jazz by Donald Miller

September 30, 2019

Blue Like Jazz is described as “nonreligious thoughts on Christian spirituality”, which enables us as Christians to read this book and examine author Donald Miller’s perceptions of what he thinks the Christian lifestyle looks like. Miller writes his book in a conversational tone, making it feel more like a chat over coffee rather than a preacher from the pulpit. I strongly believe that Miller has a lot of lessons, a couple that I will mention below, that I believe the Church needs to hear about. This book allows us to take a stand on what we believe about Christian culture and helps us critically think through what Christian spirituality really looks like in today’s society.

This book changed my outlook on reading and Christian spirituality. By reading this book, I not only found a new love for reading, but I also discovered a lot about myself and what I believe. This book is about Don’s journey to Christian faith after growing up in a broken home believing that God only had a social or political agenda in mind. There are a few major things I learned from reading this book.

“Americanization” of the Gospel

Miller talks about what the Gospel looks like in today’s culture and how we have changed the perception of it. He states that he felt as if his pastor was a part of a business deal when he shared the Gospel with him, “They felt like they had to sell God, as if He were soap or a vacuum cleaner, and it’s like they really weren’t listening to me; they didn’t care, they just wanted me to buy their product” (p. 46). It is our job to not make the Gospel feel like a business transaction, but rather an emotional and life-changing decision. We should not solely try to get people to agree with us, but instead encourage them to meet God. We should be completely out of the way when we are sharing the Gospel. Miller states, “I loved the fact that it wasn’t my responsibility to change somebody, that it was God’s, that my part was just to communicate love and approval” (p. 221). We often make the Gospel about us, but Miller states, “I realized in an instant that I desired false gods because Jesus wouldn’t jump through my hoops, and I realized that my faith was about image and ego, not about practicing spirituality” (94). We want Christianity to appear attractive to non-believers and believers, but that is not the goal of the Gospel. He then goes to say, “If the supposed new church believes in trendy music and cool web pages, then it is not relevant to culture either. It is just another tool of Satan to get people to be passionate about nothing” (111). The goal of the Gospel is to bring forth new life and glorify God in the process. Miller talks about how Christian belief is not fashionable because there is a real God, devil, heaven, and hell. Sometimes we do not need to understand all aspects of Christianity and God because Miller states that often through the process of that, we cheapen it. We need to take God at His word and follow Him. We love to “Americanize” the Gospel so that we can make it relevant to our culture, but I believe that we need to keep the Gospel the way it was intended to be.

Cultivating Heaven on Earth

Often, I find myself wanting as much of Heaven on Earth that is possible. I would like to believe that this is a popular concept in today’s world, especially since there are songs written about it, like “Heaven is a Place on Earth” by Belinda Carlisle. However, achieving this kind of status is impossible without Jesus. Jesus causes heart transformation and that heart transformation causes the world to become a better place, or as some would say, like Heaven on Earth.

Miller talks about some simple practices we can do that I believe can turn Earth into a little piece of Heaven. First, as Christians we should know how to love people the best we can because we have the perfect example of love, Jesus. Second, so many people want to do great things for our world, but often we start in the wrong place. Miller introduces the idea that if we want to change the world, we need to have an x-ray of our lives first because we cannot change the world if we don’t change ourselves first. He states, “I think Jesus feels strongly about communicating the idea of our brokenness, and I think it is worth reflection. Nothing is going to change in the Congo until you and I figure out what is wrong with the person in the mirror” (p. 23). Third, loving what God loves helps cultivate this environment; “Jesus gives us the ability to love the things we should love, the things of Heaven. Tony says that when people who follow Jesus love the right things, they help create God’s kingdom on Earth, and that is something beautiful” (p. 77). Miller also goes on to say that we should pray that God will reveal to us people who need to be loved because God would want us to care for His people. Fourth, having endless passion about the right things causes people to want to follow you; “If you are passionate about something people will follow you because they think you know something they don’t, some clue to the meaning of the universe” (p. 109). Passion is what discerns a great leader from an okay leader. We need great Christian leaders in our world to set the standard and lead us into things that give glory to God. Fifth, the power of a solid community changes everything. According to Miller, “Loneliness is something that happens to us, but I think it is something we can move ourselves out of. I think a person who is lonely should dig into a community, give himself to a community, humble himself before his friends, initiate community, teach people to care for each other, love each other. Jesus does not want us floating through space or sitting in front of our televisions. Jesus wants us interacting, eating together, laughing together, praying together. Loneliness is something that came with the fall. If loving other people is a bit of heaven then certainly isolation is a bit of hell, and to that degree, here on earth, we decide in which state we would like to live” (p. 173). Community is not only something that Miller raves about, it is something that is biblical. God tells us to be in community and not to be alone because he knows what the human heart needs, love and acceptance. Sixth, we need to learn how to love ourselves so we can accept love and give love. He gives us a good thought by explaining how the Bible tells us to love your neighbor as yourself, but are you loving yourself as good as your neighbor? Would you say the same things to your neighbor as you say to yourself? Miller states, “If it is wrong for me to receive love, then it is also wrong for me to give it because by giving it I am causing somebody else to receive it, which I had presupposed was the wrong thing to do” (p. 231). Miller gives us a lot to think about when he gives us these practical ways to do life because I believe a lot of these ideas are counter-cultural.

Overall, I believe this book is essential to read no matter what age you are, but especially in your 20s. This book helps refocus on the things that matter and gives you an eternal perspective rather than an earthly perspective. Donald Miller does a fantastic job presenting these ideas in such a fun and relatable way.

Sources:

Miller, Donald. (2003). Blue Like Jazz: Nonreligious thoughts on Christian spirituality. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson. 


Written by: Kaitlyn Skarstein

Kaitlyn loves being able to write for the SA blog because she thinks it is important to share her voice. She loves being able to express her own opinions on important subjects that are relevant for students, faculty, and many others.

Love Won’t Stop: Ministry Never Ends

September 23, 2019

A year ago around this time I really was not sure what I believed. God, who I had known so intimately in high school, seemed like a friend that had moved away and our contact had become less and less frequent. I was holding onto memories and a past intimacy while not pursuing making new intimacy and depths within my faith in a present tense. When Francis Chan came to Convocation and then Campus Community last semester, he said things that made me question everything. Did I truly believe? Was the Holy Spirit really within me? Was I just someone who was going along with a man-made wave?I rededicated my life to Christ that night; rededicated, not started my life with, as my relationship with God started in high school and was still very much intact (albeit dim) within that low season.

Since then, I’ve seen steady growth and my passion increase as I have made greater efforts to spend more time with God in prayer and in studying His word. But as I reflected on the whole experience of questioning my faith, I realized something: there undoubtedly are people who call themselves Christians that truly are not.This is not to say they are trying to fool everybody, they may just not even know what it all means. Perhaps they were deceived by the prosperity gospel or they figured that since they were nice, went to church, and acknowledged the existence of God and Jesus then they must be set. Whatever the reason being, it is clear that outside of those who blatantly are not believers and do not claim to be, there are many within the pool of those who think they are found that are actually lost. Barna Research indicates a shocking number of Americans believe good works result in going to Heaven, with 55 percent of Americans surveyed believing that “if a person is generally good, or does good enough things for others during their life, they will earn a place in Heaven.”1

This reality puts forth a calling for each of us to examine our lives in the light of Jesus’ amazing grace and Scripture’s hard truths. Thoroughly study 1 John, assess what you believe, examine whether you are producing Fruit of the Spirit, talk to a pastor – assurance of salvation is a peace worth pursuing, and even if all it does is affirm your salvation, a reminisce of the love poured out on you by God with the Gospel is time well spent.

Outside of assessing ourselves, the fact that we are unaware who truly is a believer and who is not calls for us to treat others differently as well. With the knowledge that there are those who live among us, work with us, volunteer with us, go to church with us, and worship with us that do not believe in Jesus as their Lord and Savior, we should be moved to love, action, and proclamation of the Gospel. No one is exempt from needing the Gospel proclaimed and displayed to them. 

Love should be radiating from us as well as grace and mercy; we should not be guilting or shaming unbelievers for being away from home, but instead encouraging them to come home and then celebrating them and Jesus if or when they finally come home, much like how the Father responded in the story of the Prodigal Son in Luke 15. The model of love and kindness set by Jesus throughout Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John should be imitated by us not just to the atheists, but also to the religious, the believer, and the agnostic as well.

I have unfortunately been around people within ministries who are just as nice and loving as they can be to people that come to their ministry (and are the ones designed by the program to be evangelized to), but behind the scenes they treat their underlings, fellow believers, and co-ministry operators like the scum of the Earth. I believe this happens partly because subconsciously they think since they were already in Christ, they did not need to keep up appearances around a person, and that gave them license to not be evangelistically minded. The mark of Christians should be kindness despite the mission of evangelism being accomplished, because that is only part of the mission; we are called to make disciples. Kindness, “the opposite of brutal, harsh, hurtful, uncaring, rude, and such like”2should be a part of disciple making, putting on display the standard you want those you are discipling to exemplify.

While you may recognize that a person follows Jesus, worships, serves, and trusts in the Lord, that should not excuse you from loving, serving, and encouraging them in Christ like you would an unbeliever. A person’s salvation grants them no exemption from needing to be shown love, kindness, and gentleness by others; we all need the Gospel daily – ministry can’t stop and shouldn’t stop, ever, to all people, regardless of their state of life. As Martin Luther once wrote:

“The highest of all God’s commands is this, that we ever hold up before our eyes the image of his dear Son, our Lord Jesus Christ. He must daily be to our hearts the perfect mirror, in which we behold how much God loves us and how well, in his infinite goodness, as a faithful God, he has grandly cared for us in that he gave his dear Son for usDo not let this mirror and throne of grace be torn away from before your eyes.”3

We will fall short at loving people all the time: we are but humans. We have bad days, people perceive things oddly, things may not come across as we want; we are not perfect, but there is grace for that from our Heavenly Father, but the effort needs to be there to love everybody always despite what state of life (meaning alive in Christ or not) they are in. Part of love is kindness (1 Corinthians 13) which means sharing hard truths with someone, but that does not mean doing so without gentleness or with total disregard for the fact that something may be hard to swallow; rhetoric, tone, and phrasing all matter when sharing truth in love and all of those things matter when interacting with our neighbors daily. Love the people you are trying to share Jesus with and love the people you are in Christ with all the same; ministry and love does not stop once the person is in Christ with you, it just broadens.

 

Sources

1https://www.barna.com/research/state-church-2016/

2https://www.christiancourier.com/articles/883-magic-of-kindness-the

3Tappert, Luther: Letters of Spiritual Counsel, p. 116.


Written by: Landen Swain

Landen believes the human experience longs to be expressed; through our art, our labor, our songs, our storytelling. As a published playwright, author, and poet, he enjoys expressing his little chapter of the human experience through his writings and is thankful that the SA blog allows him to do that. He is published in numerous magazines, literary journals, and has several plays published by Off the Wall Plays, an online play publishing house.

Cooking with Clay: Chicken Mole Enchiladas

September 12, 2019

Everyone has a meal, maybe a few, that remind them of their upbringing. It doesn’t even have to be anything fancy. There are meals that serve up as much nostalgia as they do flavor. One meal that I always think of as a go-to, no stress dinner is my mom’s enchilada casserole. This, as I have come to learn and appreciate in my current financial situation, is a low cost, high reward meal that packs massive flavor.

While I am a sucker for my mom’s dish, I decided to make a rendition that incorporated my favorite Mexican sauce, Mole. Mole is a traditional Mexican sauce that usually takes hours to make. Although I would still love to give a more traditional recipe a try sometime, the recipe I went with took me about 30 minutes and was still excellent. But before I get too far ahead, let’s start with the chicken.

Place three chicken breasts in a large pot of water, add a few large pinches of salt and cover with a lid. You can also use chicken or vegetable stock if you have it, in which case you wouldn’t need to season it. Bring this to a gentle boil for about 10-15 minutes. Once your chicken is cooked through (165* internal temp for poultry) you can remove it from your liquid and let it cook. While this is boiling, let’s get that rice cooked up. If you have a rice cooker, then you know the drill. If not, put three cups of water in a pot and bring it to a boil. Add your rice and bring it back to a gentle boil, then cover it and let it simmer for about 20 minutes. A gentle simmer is the key, if it’s too hot you’ll get a layer of burnt rice at the bottom of your pot and no one wants that.

Meanwhile, heat oil in a large frying pan. Add your onions, garlic, and peppers into the oil. Sauté until soft, about five to seven minutes, stirring frequently. Add in your dry seasonings, I know it looks like way too much but I promise you it’s worth it. Stir this around until everything has a nice coat, then remove from the heat. This is going to help bring a lot of the flavor out of the seasonings before adding liquid. Once removed from heat, add in your veggie stock. Stir this around, you can use your spatula to lift up some of the goodies that have stuck to the bottom of the pan. Now we have a big pan of tasty soup, but we want a sauce; enter blender. I use a Ninja because it’s all I have available. If you have an immersion blender, that would be the easiest, but any blender should do the trick. Blend until you have a nice smooth consistency. Add this back to the pan and add in your almond butter, tomato paste, and cocoa powder to the liquid and stir well. Salt to taste, remove from heat, and relax… That was the “hard” part of this meal. Before moving on, set aside one-third of the sauce to top your casserole.

Now comes the fun part – getting creative with the vessel. I went simple and cost effective with mine: refried beans, rice, and chicken. Start by shredding the chicken you have cooked up, I use two forks and pull it apart that way. Add all this chicken to the mole and stir to get a good coat on it. Add beans, rice, and chicken to your tortilla. When rolling these bad boys you don’t have to worry about closing the ends, so just roll it up tight and add it to your 9×13 casserole dish. Repeat this till you’re dish is full. You should be able to fit five or six, depending on how much of the goods you put in them. Top this with the reserved sauce and a healthy dose of shredded cheese, as this is an important step in making sure the tortillas are moistened and they won’t burn to a crisp. Now that everything is in order, let’s get to baking.

Bake at 375 degrees for about 30 minutes. Keep an eye on it, as you don’t want the sauce to bubble over and make a mess. Remove from the oven and let this cool for about five to seven minutes. I know it’s hard to wait, but it’s better than melting your mouth and not tasting anything for a week. I like to garnish with avocado and cilantro – if that’s not your cup of tea then don’t, but please know that I am judging you.

The flavor that this recipe has is so unique and one of my absolute favorites, but the best part of it is how well it holds. You can make a double batch and freeze the second one. It’ll last for a long time and just needs to be thrown in the oven on a rainy day when you don’t have the energy to whip up a nice meal. For this you’ll want to cover it with foil and bake it at 375 degrees for 45 minutes. Remove the foil and bake for about 15 more minutes, or until the cheese is bubbling and the edges look crispy.

And there you have it – Chicken Mole Enchiladas. Until next time!

Ingredients for Mole sauce:

Olive oil – 3 Tbsp

Sweet Onion – 1

Garlic minced – 4 cloves

Jalepeño – 1 Chile powder – 1/4 cup

Flour – 1 Tbsp

Cinnamon – 1Tsp

Cumin – 2 Tsp

Vegetable Stock – 2 1/2 cup

Almond butter (or peanut butter) – 2 Tbsp

Tomato Paste – 1 Tbsp

Unsweetened Cocoa Powder – 1 Tbsp

Ingredients for Enchiladas:

3 large chicken breasts

1 pack burrito size tortillas

1 can refried beans

1 1/2 cup rice

8 oz shredded cheese


Written by: Clay Copper

Clay is a grad student that is still trying to figure out what he is doing with his life. Sometimes he writes about relevant topics here, but mostly he writes about what he cares about and hopes you enjoy it.

Learning From Failure

September 9, 2019

As I was thinking about what I would write about for this blog, I spent a lot of time thinking about failure as a whole – how I perceive my failures, how others perceive my failures, and how I work through those failures. When people say “Failure is the key to success” or some other overused buzzwords to make you feel good, I see that as an avenue for avoiding deeper issues while simultaneously simplifying a failure into a one-dimensional object. The truth is that failure is important, but failure is often dealt with on a surface level – and this happens with myself included. To really learn from a failure, we have to look at the failure as a whole. We can’t just see the mistake and say, “OK, I won’t do that anymore.” We have to ask ourselves what the mistake was and spend time dissecting why it happened.

The first part of learning from failure is recognizing that you will fail. This may seem obvious, but I have seen too many people who ignore their mistakes or underplay them. Avoiding failures and all the emotions and experiences within that can actually be quite unhealthy. Hillary Hendel from Time.com talks about the effects of suppressing our emotions. “Neuroscience suggests that the more emotions and conflicts a person experiences, the more anxiety they feel.” Again, this may seem obvious, but how many times have you avoided or denied an emotion you were feeling? Chances are you probably have already done it this week. This is because current culture reinforces this idea of blocking and avoiding emotions. In the hustle and bustle of adulting, people leave very little room (if any at all) to emotionally decompress. So, while what Hendel says may be obvious to us, most of us still emotionally avoid because of the culture we are in.

The second part to learning from failure is buying into failure. ‘What? Buying into failure?’ you may think. Yes, it seems illogical at first, but let me explain. For most of my life failure was a foreign field. I grew up with great opportunities and never had something that truly challenged me to the point of failure. Then, I came to Liberty, and the challenges I faced aren’t simple things that just require a little more effort. When I first got to Liberty I wasn’t the perfect person I thought I was, and I realized that failure is inevitable – at some point in time I would fall short of whatever the goal was. Yet, I avoided dealing with failure and instead decided to avoid dealing with my shortcomings. This only got me so far. About a year ago, I started to see challenges and issues in my life where avoiding and blocking wasn’t possible. I knew it was impossible to avoid failure forever. So, I decided to “buy in” so to speak. Instead of automatically avoiding every time I failed, I attempted to learn something from it – even if it was the smallest thing. I’m not saying I’m a guru in growing from my follies, but I am saying (as someone who’s had the Mr. Invincible mentality) we all have to learn to move past the fears of failure and dealing with it so we can truly grow.

Learning to truly grow from our failures is one of the biggest parts of life – especially when trying to walk with the Lord. We have to seize the moments as more than just a surface level growing area. We have to go deeper and really dig into our experiences to grow from them.

Sources

https://www.forbes.com/sites/williamarruda/2015/05/14/why-failure-is-essential-to-success/#283df1d7923f

https://www.business.com/articles/learning-from-failure/

https://www.mindtools.com/pages/article/fear-of-failure.htm

https://time.com/5163576/ignoring-your-emotions-bad-for-your-health/


Written by: Andrew Reynolds

Andrew is a Senior Project Management Major, and enjoys writing for the blog because of the opportunity it gives him to grow as a writer and to challenge himself to see current topics and discussions from a view point he may not have otherwise thought about.

 

Money Management

September 5, 2019

If you’re like me, being a college student and having money do not go hand in hand. Money is hard to come by, especially with high tuition prices, car payments, or even having friend groups who like eating out every weekend. Random costs even seem to creep up and we have no idea how to pay for them. It’s even hard to look at your bank account sometimes without stressing about your financial standing. So, where is the silver lining in all of this?

Kathy Caprino of Forbes Magazine writes an article on how college students can be more “financially literate.” Caprino gives seven steps to building better financial stability as a college student. These are extremely simple to understand, and almost every student should be able to achieve these. The most important point I believe Caprino makes is creating a personal budget for yourself. This will lead to a better understanding of financial literacy, which will, in turn, make things easier on the average college student.

Building a personal budget does not take long. I have hands-on experience in not only building my personal budget, but also budgets for friends and family as well. There are three basic categories when it comes to building a budget: figure out your monthly income, decipher all your expenses, and put aside money for future savings. The bottom line is that becoming financially literate is one of the most important objectives as a college student. It doesn’t just affect your current situation; it will continue to be relevant for the rest of your life. This takes patience, discipline, and a desire to plan for a financially stable future.

Whether you have an hourly job or a base salary, your monthly income should be the first step in your financial management. You probably work hard at your job and want to be rewarded with a paycheck at the end of the week. The question is, how do you want to use that paycheck? The next step will allow you to understand the significance of your paycheck and how to disburse it correctly.

Thinking through all your expenses is the next and probably most essential step in becoming financially literate. Personal expenses can include car insurance payments, gas, going out for dinner, etc. This is where you determine what costs are useful to your everyday life, as well as where you figure out costs that can be cut. Important costs to consider are miscellaneous spending, which are costs that are not imperative (unlike car payments or insurance). A great rule to follow is to consider needs over wants. It may be tempting as a college student to go on a shopping spree for the latest styles, go out to eat multiple times a week, or even buy every new iPhone as it’s released. There’s nothing wrong with a splurge occasionally, just if needs are placed above wants. The US News reflects on this very idea. They warn students that they need to budget for travel, food outside of the regular meal plan, and any other extracurricular activities they desire to do in addition to the normal university expenses. College is already expensive, why make it harder by not budgeting for those extra expenses?

Saving can be the most difficult step to follow when it comes to financial management as a college student. We have always been warned to save as much as we can, but it never seems to happen. After seeing your monthly income and figuring out your expenses, take a percentage of the difference and place it into a savings account. Putting away a percentage of your paycheck is a great step in the right direction. Once you get into the habit of saving, your financial management becomes a lot easier and will prepare you for the future. The Balance, an online financial blog, looks at savings differently for college students to regular adults. College students should not look to invest their money into other entities, but rather save for future tuition payments, books, or a financial desire of the student. Saving is extremely important for the success of a college student’s financial management. Without additional funds, you will run out eventually and become stuck in the financial rut that many college students find themselves in today.

I understand that spending money is a part of going to college. You want to have fun and get the whole “college experience.” Budgeting is hard when there are so many areas where money can be spent. However, it is important to budget for this spending, as it can easily get out of hand and will leave you wondering where your money went. Stay disciplined, stay responsible, and stick with your budget as it will allow you to have a more financially stable present and future.

Sources

https://www.forbes.com/sites/kathycaprino/2014/08/21/7-simple-steps-college-students-should-take-to-build-financial-literacy-and-responsibility/#dfae64325bbe

https://money.usnews.com/money/personal-finance/articles/2015/07/16/those-other-college-expenses-you-arent-thinking-about

https://www.thebalance.com/managing-your-money-while-in-college-2385965


Written by: Mike Tammaro

Mike is a Junior double majoring in Finance and Economics and writes for the blog in order to expand my skills as a student. As a business major, the curriculum does not allow for a lot of creative writing, so being able to publish written work is freeing from my normal educational routine.

Memes: Potentially Pessimistic Poison

August 30, 2019

There are three things that all people are amongst other things: a sinner, a critic, and a comedian. I came to know the sinner part from my church background, in which one of the first verses I ever adopted into my memory called us all out for being sinners and falling short of the glorious standard set by God (Romans 3:23). The critic part stems from the common saying “opinions are like armpits: everybody has them and some of them stink worse than others”, but the comedian part is said rather tongue-in-cheek as it is something that everyone tries to be in their own particular way. Unfortunately, this does not mean everyone is good at it; just because someone writes a song does not mean it is a good song or that they are a good musician.

When presented with downtime, I tend to entertain myself with either television or movies, and without fail I wish I could do what the people I see on screen are doing. After watching an NBA game, I dream of being Giannis Antetokounmpo. Post-watching a Netflix comedy special, I fanaticize selling out Radio City Music Hall like John Mulaney. I cannot seem to go to a concert without getting caught up in visualizing myself being up there doing what some of my favorite artists do; we desire to do what we see others who we admire are doing, which is only natural.

For many who grew up in the vastly changing 2000s, Jon Stewart, former host of the 22-time Primetime Emmy award winning satirical news show “The Daily Show”, was the ideal combination of critique and comedy. His satirical style pointed out flaws in logic, execution, and philosophy all while bringing a smile to the audience’s face through laughter rooted in a plethora of comedic genres including observational, insult, and absurdist. Disregarding any political disagreements I may have with Stewart, when I see him roasting politicians without even blatantly calling them out for their hypocrisy, when I see him being a social activist through his comedic commentary, I develop a desire to do what he did on the Daily Show. I believe that many people try to do that too; people try to do what Stewart – one of the most iconic, impactful, and influential voices of the century – did so very well and satirically commented on all manners of culture. Yet, people’s sometimes lame attempt at being Jon Stewart is through memes.

Given the fact that on-campus Liberty students are required to go to Convocation Wednesday and Friday mornings, sometimes the routine of it all becomes mundane, so students have to try to find amusement to keep themselves entertained amidst the required gatherings. Memes are a convenient and often comedic way to do so. LU Memes and The Liberty Way meme account both host a tremendous following and cover everything from odd illustrations Nasser uses and videos of Jerry Falwell Jr. pelvic thrusting hundreds of pounds to frustrations with parking – which I have come to understand on a new level since moving off-campus. But with such a wide array of topics being covered, the memes made pointing out the positives in activities or functions are few and far between, looking like a small hill in the shadow of mountains of pessimism. This is little to no fault of the administrators of the pages, as they merely filter what gets posted on the page and work with what they are sent, but this makes it clear that the content they are sent is mostly on the pessimistic side, proving that students tend to find the negative(s) in things which likely do not deserve an analysis and critique.

Memes have grown in popularity just as social media has over the past decade, with some meme accounts on Instagram having over 16 million followers. In 2015, Max Roser conducted a survey called “Share of the population who think the world is getting better” and only 6% of Americans said that the world seemed to be getting better;  this is with the knowledge that technology, medicine, and many people’s circumstances have improved over the past few decades. While there certainly are things that have not improved, and maybe they have even gotten worse (including that many people do live in very unfortunate circumstances), I believe that there is a definitive connection between the world’s growing pessimism and the increased popularity of memes that tend to be hung up on the negative. I fully acknowledge that ignorance is bliss and through the usage of memes many things have been brought to light that we may not have noticed before, but we may have ran into an indulgence of pointing out the negative and not even acknowledging the presence of the positive.

There is humor to be found in the relatable nature of memes, but what I fear is that memes are changing us slowly and unbeknownst to us, corrupting us into people that cannot enjoy things anymore because we just want to make fun of it, critique it, and devour it to get a cheap laugh and maybe some social media clout. The fear is that we cannot consume and enjoy because we are choking on our pessimistic poison. Do we know how to consume food, entertainment, and every day interactions anymore without feeling the need to dilute them down to a cheap joke? Are we too far gone to ever have childlike wonder and amazement about things but still have the maturity of adults?  Can we enjoy things purely anymore?

We attempt to justify our constant pessimism by defending them as being harmless jokes, blaming our boredom as the reason we can’t help but find the negative in things, and sometimes marking it off as an attempt to socially commentate on something in society. Too often we forget that somebody put work into their craft and, in a sense, when we make fun of someone’s hard work we make fun of them. As Will Rogers once said, “Everything is funny, as long as it’s happening to somebody else”. Granted, a person’s identity should not be solely resting on their work but that does not mean there is an open invite to offer only criticism and never constructive advice. If all you do is point out to the masses that there is a fire but never sound the alarm, grab a hose, or call 9-1-1, you are part of the problem, not the solution.

Social commentary is important as it puts on display parts of something or someone that need improvement, hypocrisy, and injustice that may have otherwise gone unnoticed, which is why comedic commentators like Jon Stewart are important. Yet, there is a time and a place for it and even Jon recognizes that not every subject, not every song, not every pixel on a screen requires a skinning and thrashing; “If we amplify everything we hear nothing.” Continue to make memes, be honest, point out hypocrisy but lovingly and with the hopes that things will improve, laugh at life, find humor in the happenings and idiosyncrasies of the day, but be aware and cautious about the fact that memes may be funny, but they can have the potential to turn you into a pessimist who cannot enjoy things anymore. This is all because you seek to make your own fun out of something that may have already been fun in and of itself. You are given thousands of little choices every day to either look for the small slither of light or point out and exploit the darkness surrounding you; in the words of NEEDTOBREATHE, “Be more heart and less attack”.

Sources

https://www.rd.com/advice/work-career/jon-stewart-quotes/

https://ourworldindata.org/motivation

https://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/will_rogers_164648?src=t_humor

https://genius.com/Needtobreathe-more-heart-less-attack-lyrics


Written by: Landen Swain

Landen believes the human experience longs to be expressed; through our art, our labor, our songs, our storytelling. As a published playwright, author, and poet, he enjoys expressing his little chapter of the human experience through his writings and is thankful that the SA blog allows him to do that. He is published in numerous magazines, literary journals, and has several plays published by Off the Wall Plays, an online play publishing house.

The Search For A Church: What To Consider and Why You Should Consider It

August 29, 2019

The start of a new semester is upon us and thousands are flooding into Lynchburg for college. Before leaving Lynchburg for the summer, maybe you were questioning whether you should keep going to the church you are going to in Lynchburg or not, maybe you were church hopping in hopes of finding one that made you feel like you were at home, or maybe you have not been going to church at all, relying on podcasts and a Shane & Shane playlist for a church experience. If you are an incoming freshmen, the search for a church to plug into, belong to, and serve with can be a daunting task as your church will hopefully shape, mold, and encourage your walk with the Lord. Regardless of what state of your academic career you are in, the search for a church to go to is important. Through this post, I hope to highlight things to look for in a church and things to seek bringing about within your current church body.

You Need To Be Going To Church

In 2 Timothy 3, Paul gives us qualifications for overseers and deacons and in 2 Timothy 5 he gives us instructions for the church. Hebrews 10:24-25 literally states “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.” All of these passages and more point to the fact that churches are within God’s divine design – from the actual gathering of believers to those in positions of leadership over that body of believers – and He emphasizes the importance of being a part of a church, with fellow members of the Church. If you are a believer, neglecting gathering together in a body of believers is bluntly unwise, foolish, and unsafe. With all that being said, your search for a good church should be at the forefront of your priorities if you are not in one, so take this seriously.

What To Look For, What To Avoid

Though hilarious, it is sad that a lot of people approach finding a church with the pettiness John Crist satirically displays in his videos Church Hunters: Episodes 1 and 2.1 We far too often go to church sorely mistaken into thinking that it is about us when in reality, the epicenter of the church is God; it is not about us dressing up nice, sharing social niceties, taking pictures in our outfits to display on social media afterwards, getting a cup of coffee, enjoying a concert, hearing a lecture, and leaving feeling better about ourselves, so if you are going to church wanting comfort in the sense of luxury and ease, entertainment, or to just get your religion in for the week, sadly you are doing it wrong.

It is not that nice clothes, coffee, and quality musicianship are bad things, it is just that we all too often make church about ourselves, our comfortability, entertainment, and interests, and not about God, with the ultimate goal of each Sunday leaving church in awe of God, challenged by His Word, and praying for God to search and know us and to lead us in the way everlasting as Psalm 139 says. Church should be a place where we are bearing one another’s burdens (Galatians 6:2), helping each other overcome doubt (John 20:26-31), praising together (Psalm 147-150), having hard conversations rooted in scriptural truth (Ephesians 4:25-27), encouraging one another (Hebrews 10:25), holding each other accountable (Galatians 6:1-5), discipling one another (Matthew 28:19-20), and doing life with one another (James 5:16, 1 Thessalonians 5:11, Ecclesiastes 4:9-12). If your motivations behind church fit within the comfort zone, this may be a wake-up call for you to search that much more for a church that strives to be what a church is supposed to be.

Note that I did not say find a perfect church, because you are not going to; as Hank Hanegraaff once said, “If you find a perfect church, don’t join it; you’ll ruin it.”2 You cannot find a perfect church congregation because we are imperfect people in a sinful world, but what you can do is look to see if they match up with biblical descriptions of a good church. 1 Timothy and other passages thankfully give us a few descriptions:

Do they pray? 1 Timothy 2 starts by Paul urging “that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people”. Well, that’s an easy enough instruction. Does the church you are looking at dedicate themselves to prayer, to fasting? Do they take time before God seriously or is it a secondary focus for them? Where there is prayer there is a deepened community and if their prayer is rooted in the right motives, that is also where you will see God all the more in your daily life as you trust all the more in His all-knowing way and lean not on your own understanding (Proverbs 3:5).

Do they worship? Oftentimes throughout 1 Timothy, Paul would mention God or Jesus and add an extra nugget in there about them (i.e. “God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy” (6:17) “he who is blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords (6:15), “… we have our hope set on the living God, who is the Savior of all people, especially of those who believe” (4:10)) and this is a form of worship. John Piper once said, “True worship is a valuing or a treasuring of God above all things,”3 and Paul is treasuring God above all else with these compliments and praises within his speech. This speaks to the importance of worship, to be mindful to put God above all things, including ourselves; a church should worship, but it should be worship of God not ourselves.

Do they live out what they teach? In Paul’s list of qualifications for an overseer and for a deacon in 1 Timothy 3, he notes how they should be the husband of one wife (3:2,12), manage their household and children well (3:4,12), and a variety of other things. The main point of it all being that they should be setting the example, putting into action what they are being taught, being a doer of the word and not a hearer only (James 1:22), and that should be modeled within the church as well, or at the very least an effort should be put towards it. No church member will get it perfect; as Billy Sunday once said,Hypocrites in the Church? Yes, and in the lodge and at the home. Don’t hunt through the Church for a hypocrite. Go home and look in the mirror. Hypocrites? Yes. See that you make the number one less.”4

What’s their theology? You cannot rely on your pastor for all of your theology; they can guide you through things, give wise counsel, but check things out for yourself. You have a Bible, read it yourself to check to see what you truly believe but listen to wise counsel (Proverbs 11:14, 12:15, 19:20-21). Examine whether a church is holding “…to sound doctrine, in accordance with the gospel of the glory of the blessed God…” (1 Timothy 1:10-11) and determine whether they are preaching the true Gospel and not a false-hope giving, gross distortion of the Gospel like the Word of Faith Movement’s Prosperity Gospel (which you can learn more about the dangers of by watching “American Gospel: In Christ Alone”). You do not have to agree with everything the church you are checking out believes in theologically. In fact, if you are purposely seeking out individuals that believe everything you do as well then all you are doing is seeking affirmation and comfortability; you should be challenged by your church and different opinions, but the gauge by which you measure what is being said must be scripture and not personal opinion.

The Congregation

Just about everywhere you go there are multiple generations, races, ethnicities, and socioeconomic classes within that area, and your church should reflect that; it is not a sin to have a church made up primarily of one socioeconomic group or one race, but we should recognize that heaven will contain “a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages…” (Revelation 7:9, ESV). If there’s nothing but white people in the area you live in, do not feel like you are failing miserably because there are no other races within your church congregation, but if other races or generations are never sought out or people of other ethnicities being within your church congregation makes you uncomfortable, that screams that there needs to be some study of scripture, hard conversations with a mentor, and prayer for that anti-gospel disposition you hold in your heart, as the Gospel goes beyond all boundaries (Acts 10:34-35).

It would be wise to look for multiple generations within a church you are looking at as well. 2 Timothy begins with Paul acknowledging that he sees the same sincere faith that was in Timothy’s grandmother Lois and in his mother Eunice in Timothy (1:5). Proverbs 16:31 notes “gray hair is a crown of glory”; this denotes how there is encouragement to be had from the elderly, those who have been running the race for a while, who have walked the path before you, who hold so much wisdom from life experiences and decades of studying the word. While we should not be despised for our youth (1 Timothy 4:12), it is sort of hard for someone only a few years older than you to give you the kind of advice that a person twice your age could – experience often cultivates wisdom.

Final Thoughts

If you are at a church and you feel a conviction about not leaving the church but want to make a change within it to have it exemplify biblical models of what a church should look like, then that is a worthwhile mission. Be the change you wish to see within the church (looking to scripture as the model for what it should look like to begin with; there is a need for people to go into spaces and influence things for the better, undoubtedly). Start by talking with your pastor and the elders about what you see your church lacking and go from there; if there is an absolute refusal on their part to change and that is not based in scripture, after a fair amount of time, it may be time to consider actually leaving but never have them leave your prayers.

Lynchburg has a myriad of churches to choose from with a variety of denominations, preferences, settings, and styles, but regardless of the church you end up at be faithful and active, a doer rather than just a hearer, a student, a listener, a disciple maker, a server, an ambassador for Christ, and an imitator of Him while you are there and beyond.

Sources

1https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nT70cA-7qMk

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I2FrYWub95o

2http://www.quotehd.com/quotes/hank-hanegraaff-quote-if-you-find-a-perfect-church-dont-join-it-youll-ruin

3https://www.desiringgod.org/interviews/what-is-worship

4 https://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/billy_sunday_183041?src=t_church


Written by: Landen Swain

Landen believes the human experience longs to be expressed; through our art, our labor, our songs, our storytelling. As a published playwright, author, and poet, he enjoys expressing his little chapter of the human experience through his writings and is thankful that the SA blog allows him to do that. He is published in numerous magazines, literary journals, and has several plays published by Off the Wall Plays, an online play publishing house.

Block Party Announcement

August 9, 2019

Unfortunately, we have a major bummer of an announcement to make. Due to another mandatory obligation on COIN’s behalf the same day as Block Party, they have cancelled their performance here for that day. We are extremely disappointed, as we know all of you probably are, and we wish the outcome could be different. The good news is that we do have another artist announcement coming very soon, so be sure to check our social media to stay up to date. Again, we’re so disappointed, but we hope you all understand that we did everything we could to make this work.