Just Ask Me! (I’m as Odd as a Tree in the Desert)

April 13, 2015

“I will put in the wilderness the cedar….”

nomad in wilderness
When will people see more than just a little girl? More than someone who stands shorter than they? Someone who doesn’t look her age? I sat in my quiet office today asking the Lord these questions — my heart aching at the reality that is my life. Most often when I meet new people I pretend that they don’t notice my stature. That maybe they are thinking: I want to be her best friend, or I like her fashion sense. However, today I was hit with the harsh truth that sometimes people do see my height first and wonder “why?” Just writing that question sends a jolt of pain to a bruised spot in my heart. I sat in my office, my emotions feeling the same color as the blue walls that seemed to be closing in on me, and I asked the Lord those questions. His response, as always, is never what I predict. He brought these questions to mind: “When will you see more than just the earthly, the circumstances, and the lack? When will you see through my eyes, Betsy? When will you see the real question?”

“Lord, no offense but that’s not my question. This is about other people…not me. This is about what they see!” His sweet, persistent voice filled my heart, speaking the words I didn’t want to hear: “No, this is about you; this is about what you see. I want you to see through my eyes, not yours. Don’t worry about them; focus on your own vision, on what you see.” As I sat pondering these words, my mind went back to a lunch conversation I had with a kind and wise friend. She said to me: “If the offending question points back to Jesus, isn’t it for a greater purpose, the very purpose of life? That they may see and know that the hand of the Lord has done this?”

“I will put in the wilderness the cedar, 
the acacia the myrtle and the olive. 
I will set in the desert the cypress, the plane and the pine together, that they may see and know, 
may consider and understand together, 
that the hand of the Lord has done this, the Holy One of Israel has created it.” ~Isaiah 41:19-20

This world is broken, and the desert is real. Sin rules this world and with that comes sickness, death, brokenness, and sorrow. Yet, in the midst of the desert, the Lord says He will provide shade and a sweet smelling aroma. Only the Creator God, if He wills, can grow a tree in the desert; a tree that points a finger back to the Holy One of Israel. A tree that stands tall, sends out an aroma of sweetness, and provides shade. If I saw a tree standing in the midst of the desert I think I would ask why. Not out of offense to its Creator but out of curiosity. A tree shouldn’t live in the parched dry land but if God plants it, the tree will live. God makes dead things come alive and takes the stench of sin and cleanses it with the aroma of His son’s blood. He takes the deserts of life and plants His people in the midst of it. “He makes the barren places fruitful” (Guzik). Our pain, our brokenness, and our lack when placed in the Gardener’s hands can be the very shade a weary broken traveler needs. It can be the very aroma that draws someone sick of the stench of sin. It can be the very life-giving fruit that fills the empty.

Through the world’s eyes you and I shouldn’t have joy or sweetness in our desert, but we do. Why? Because of the Holy One of Israel. It’s as odd to a bitter hurting soul as seeing a tree flourish in the desert. May they ask. May they always ask…because I finally SEE that they will never know the fruit born out of the barren land if they never ask. He has filled me with the fruit of His word, given me shade, spread His sweet aroma over the stench of pain, and brought color to the blandest of days. Sweet friends, the Holy One has a purpose in the painful questions and the barren places. “They will SEE and know that the hand of the Lord has done this.” His sweet aroma, His shade, and the height of His love provided fruit in the most barren of places and that, my friends, is not of this world…The HOLY ONE OF ISRAEL DOES THAT!

betsy pic

Betsy Bolick
Director of Women’s Ministry and Creative Arts

Working for the Glory of God

April 06, 2015

As part of the marketing office here at CSU, I probably view, say or type “integrating faith in learning, leading and serving” at least 100 times a day. That phrase—part of the CSU’s vision statement—is included on everything that I create. Whether it is a small postcard or a huge billboard, it’s there, and I see it over and over again. But what does it mean? What does it mean to “integrate” faith in our work?

This question is something I have wrestled with over the last several years as I have grown in my faith in Christ and in my work. When I became a Christian several years ago, I knew that giving my life to Jesus meant following him wherever He called me. I got very involved in campus ministry, and after graduation, I served as a college minister and began attending seminary in hopes of a career in “full-time ministry.” At the time, I thought this was the only way I could serve God, and that I couldn’t have a  “regular” job if I wanted to glorify God. Fast forward a couple of years, and for a number of reasons, I am now working as a full-time designer. And while I don’t have the time to devote to church ministry like someone who is in “vocational” ministry, God has truly taught me to embrace this role and to integrate my faith in my work.

going to work

Here are a few ways that I have learned to integrate faith in my work:

  1. Don’t make an idol of your work. We often think “if only I had this job, then I would be happy.” But the truth is, no matter what, your job isn’t going to fulfill you. You’ll always feel empty when you try to find your worth in something outside of Christ. For me, I always thought that if I could just get the job I wanted, I would be happy. But I’ve learned that God has placed me in my current job for a reason, and that I just need to be faithful to him and find my fulfillment in Jesus – not anything else.
  2. Work hard and do a good job. When people observe you doing a good job, they naturally wonder why, especially if your job seems tedious or less than desirable. No matter if you are digging ditches or cleaning toilets, God gets the glory if you work to please him – and others will see that and respond.
  3. Invest in others wherever you are. No matter what job you have, you are going to be serving someone, and you will likely have some sort of relationship with all types of people. Find ways to invest in others, whether they are your superiors, employees, colleagues or customers. Since I work at a college, once or twice a week I grab lunch with a student and get to know them.
  4. Be grateful that God has given you talents, skills, knowledge or a degree. For me, God has wired me to naturally have a knack for design. He also led me to get my undergrad degree in the field, though that is not what I “wanted to do with my life” when I was 20. I am thankful for this, though, and the experience that I’ve gotten over time that has led me to be able to serve in my current job as a graphic designer at CSU.

I think the key is that we realize we have the ability to serve God in whatever profession we hold. If you are a ditch digger, you can serve God in your ditch digging. If you are a banker, you can serve God in your banking. One profession isn’t better than another – it is all in how you spend your time. Work hard and invest in others, and you will serve God well.

“Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ.” – Colossians 3:23-24

Jon Icon
Jon Merkling
Graphic Designer

Responding to the Gospel

March 30, 2015

Processed with VSCOcam with n1 presetWhen Christians share the gospel they must make sure that they communicate faithfully and clearly what Scripture teaches about the good news. Among other things, believers should emphasize that sin separates people from God, that eternal punishment is real, that Christ died for sinners and that he alone provides hope for forgiveness.

Along with faithfully communicating these truths Christians need to provide clear, simple instructions regarding how a lost person must respond to the gospel. In other words, people must be told what God requires of those who desire to become a Christian. Asking Jesus into one’s heart (an action not found in Scripture) or promising not to make the same “bad decisions” or “mistakes” (watered-down definitions of one’s sinfulness) are not appropriate responses to the gospel.

What, then, does a Christian tell those who wish to become a believer? God demands that people respond to his offer of salvation through Christ with repentance, faith, obedience and wholehearted love. Repentance, a foundational element of an appropriate response (Matt 4:17; Acts 2:38; 3:19), may be defined as a change of mind about one’s sin that results in a willingness to change one’s behavior. Repentance entails acknowledging that what Scripture says about our sinful human condition is true and right. One does not argue with God or measure himself against others. The prodigal son (Luke 15:18-21) serves as a model of repentance, as does Zacchaeus (Luke 19:8). A second element of an appropriate response is to place one’s faith in the person and work of Jesus Christ (Acts 10:43; 13:39; 16:31; Rom 10:9). People must trust in Jesus as God’s Messiah and Son whose death saves them from their sin (Matt 16:16; Luke 1:77; 2:11; Mark 10:45; John 20:31). Another important element of an appropriate response is to obey God’s commands (e.g., Matt 7:21-23; see also 28:20). Obedience refers not to a cold, blind allegiance or mere lip service. Rather, obedience entails submitting to God the Father’s divine will as revealed in Scripture. This leads us to the final element, a wholehearted love for God (Matt 22:37). Such love is greater than one’s love for others, whether family, friends or even self (Luke 14:26). We might also understand this love as putting God and his kingdom first (Matt 6:33).

I am not arguing that one’s explanation of how to respond to the gospel must include all four elements precisely as I have described them. Nevertheless, believers need to reflect on what to say when a lost person asks how he or she must respond to the gospel. Our instructions should be clear, simple and firmly grounded on Scripture.

michael bryant
Dr. Michael L. Bryant
Dean, School of Christian Studies