Ephesians Week 4, Day 5

Ephesians 2:11-22

Christ came to save the whole world not just a select group of people. He brought the Jews and Gentiles together and formed a single family with Christ as the “cornerstone.”

Have you ever been in a situation where you became very aware of your skin color or ethnicity?  As if you were the only one different, and that in turn made you feel like you did not belong?  In the classic Dr. Seuss children’s novel, “The Sneetches”, there are a group of characters who have stars on their bellies.  There are other Sneetches without stars and thus there was a dividing line.  The star bellied Sneetches were seen as more elite and more desired.  The characters go back and forth paying a man to add stars and remove stars on their bellies. By the end of the story both sets of characters erase the dividing line and no one is seen as less or excluded.

“The Sneetches” is a powerful story about discrimination and dividing lines.  In the story the characters simply “wizen up” but in real life, it was Jesus who erased the dividing line.  None of us are foreigners or lower class in His Kingdom.  Despite what you’ve gone through or what you’ve been told, you, exactly as you are, are invited into God’s Kingdom and seen as first class.

Ephesians Week 4, Day 3

Ephesians 2:11-22

11 Therefore, remember that formerly you who are Gentiles by birth and called “uncircumcised” by those who call themselves “the circumcision” (which is done in the body by human hands)—12 remember that at that time you were separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world. 13 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near by the blood of Christ. 14 For he himself is our peace, who has made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, 15 by setting aside in his flesh the law with its commands and regulations. His purpose was to create in  himself one new humanity out of the two, thus making peace, 16 and in one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility.17 He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near. 18 For through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit. 19 Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow  citizens with God’s people and also members of his household, 20 built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. 21 In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. 22 And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.

Take time to slowly read this passage again, asking God what He wants to bring your attention to today.

 

As the Years Go By

imageLast week, on Saturday, August 10th, 2013, I turned 20 years old. I’ve completed two full decades of my life, and prayerfully I have many more decades ahead of me. Every time a birthday passes me by I reflect on the past, evaluate the present, and plan for the future. This helps me to keep my goals in order and keep my life on track.
As I look back on my past, I realize how much I have changed and how different my personality is. When I was a child I was talkative, but soft spoken. I always had a lot to say, but I was afraid to be forceful about saying it. Over the years, I have realized that if I want to be heard, then I need to be outspoken and assertive. I spent years developing my social skills and my public speaking, and now I am almost too loud and outspoken. People often don’t believe me when I tell them that I used to be timid. Looking back on my earlier years gives me satisfaction in that I was able to successfully make a personality change that has greatly improved my life.
I am satisfied and content with my current situation. I am doing well in school, I am where I need to be financially, and my relationships with my loved ones are strong. I have maintained a 3.9 GPA throughout my first two years of college, and I expect to extend the streak through the end of my time in higher education. Ever since I started my first job I have been in the habit of saving my money, and my parents assist me where they are able, so I am stable and provided for. I put my all into my relationships with God, my family, my friends, and my girlfriend. I put a strong effort into being communicative, loving, and forgiving toward my loved ones. I take initiative and responsibility for everything that is within my control, and in everything I cannot control I trust God to keep order and make everything work together for my good.
Barring any major catastrophes, I expect my future to be great. I had a wonderful upbringing, I retained a lot of the things that my parents have tried to instill in me, and I have a lot of good things going for me. Some day I will have my own family, and I hope to give my children the same good life that I was given by my parents. I will also have a career as a professor, and I want to be as hard-working as my parents are. With every birthday that passes, I think more and more about what it means to be an adult and have my own responsibilities. I hope and pray that, as has been the case up until now, every one of my birthdays is better than the last.

Tips for Incoming College Freshmen

Dear College Freshman,
Welcome! You are about to enter into one of the most exciting and crazy years of your life. If you’re anything like me you are experiencing a bundle of emotions ranging to anticipation to complete and utter fear.

 

freshyMy freshman year was full so many new things and there were many points when I felt a little lost. I often wished there was some sort of survival guide for making it through all the newness. I learned so many things and I would love to impart a little bit of wisdom to you for your first year of college.

 

When I applied to Nyack College, I didn’t really know what to expect when I started living in the dorms.Here is my top ten list of helpful tips to survive your freshman year of college.

 
1. Actually get involved in something. Everyone will tell you this, but honestly finding a group of people with similar interest as you is the easiest way to make friendships.

 
2. Find a church and get involved. I found it really beneficial to attend a church regularly and serve in some ministries there. It is nice to have a group of people apart from Nyack students to spend time with.

 
3. Reach out to your roommate and those on your hall. These people are your family at least for the year so work on building relationships and having tons of fun.

 
CTA button for Blog UG4. Take your classes seriously. Wake up people! College is not high school and needs to be taken more seriously if you want to pass and do well in career one day.

 
5. Have fun, but don’t get crazy. College is so much fun just make sure you’re not doing something that ruins your chances of finding success at college.

 
6. Get to know your teachers. The teachers here at Nyack truly care about their students so take advantage of their knowledge as well as getting to know them outside the classroom.

 
7. Make a new friend every day! There are so many cool and interesting people worth getting to know in life. Get out of your comfort zone every day and meet some great people in return.

 
8. Keep in contact. I moved eight hours away when I came to school and that distance means I have to work extra hard to stay connected to my friends and family. It takes some effort at times, but is so important.

 
9. Rest. Sometimes it is easy to feel invincible so you think you can party all semester then just pull 14 all-nighters at the end of the semester. This is stressful and exhausting so just take time to prioritize and especially prioritize sleeping.

 
10. Keep the faith. It may be tempting with all your Bible classes and chapel three times a week, but one on one time with God is so important. Set aside time every day to spend with God because if you’re not doing that then really what are we doing with our lives?

 
So there’s the list. I hope this can encourage you and give you some guidance as you enter into this new stage of life.
Sincerely,
Erin Fox

Serving Side By Side: This is the Body of Christ

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Technically, I spent this past week at Harvey Cedars Bible Conference in Harvey Cedars, NJ. But I would say I spent this past week in a small slice of heaven. Even though I hardly got any sleep all week, it left me feeling energized and closer with both Jesus and my students. Upon arriving at HCBC, my group of teens found themselves surrounded by hundreds of teens from other churches and almost immediately began to initiate conversation and participate in activities together. IMG_0792

As a leader, I found myself in a slightly more exclusive group. Each morning, I attended  leaders’ meetings and was surrounded by people who I felt were much more qualified for my job than I was. As the week went on, however, I became more confident and felt very close with my fellow leaders even though I had only known them for a matter of days.

CTA button for Blog UGI soon found myself wondering how I connected with these people so quickly. Then, I realized that it had nothing to do with how much time we spent together or how many laughs we shared, but rather, it had everything to do with Jesus. Never in my life have I experienced a better example of the body of Christ and the church outside of the building. It was a powerful thing to be surrounded by people who both loved Jesus, and were dedicated to teaching teens about Him.
IMG_6267At one point during the week, emotions were running high and several of my students came face to face with their struggles in a very real way. Many were asking for prayer, and help, and advice, and it was extremely overwhelming. One night, I approached a young leader from another church and just asked if we could pray together. All I knew about this leader was his name but we laid hands on each other and prayed for strength, energy, and wisdom. I am confident that this connection was Jesus at work. As young leaders, we were both seeking wisdom and guidance in an attempt to serve our students in the most effective way possible.
I believe heaven will be much like this week, consisting of  fellowship with believers and constant worshiping of God. The only difference is that God will physically be there with us to audibly join in the conversation. I will never forget that night I prayed fervently alongside a brother in Christ, because serving God side by side– this is the body of Christ.

Grilling Done Right

photo(6)One of my favorite things about the summertime is cooking food outside on the grill. To me, it represents warm weather, fun, and good times with family and friends. Whenever the grill starts, people gather together to enjoy the food and fun. Because I enjoy it so much, I am usually the one with a spatula in hand. I would like to teach you all some ways to make sure that your grilling is done right.

Safety is extremely important when using a grill. Be sure to completely understand how your grill works, and check to see if it is in good working condition before using it. Using a gas grill improperly can result in serious injury. Wrapping the grate in foil not only preserves the taste of the food and the cleanliness of the grate, but it also makes grilling safer by preventing much of the grease from dripping onto the fire and causing the flames to flare up toward the chef. To stifle grease fires, mix water with vinegar in a spray bottle, spray it over the fire, and close the lid until the fire goes out. Address grease fires quickly for your safety and so that they do not ruin your food.

Hamburgers and hotdogs are usually the first thing that people think of when they hear the word “barbecue.” Hamburgers are the most simple grilling assignment; slap them on the grill and flip them when the juices start to bubble on the side that is up. Put a slice of cheese on each patty while it is still hot so that the cheese melts. Hotdogs are a little bit more involved. Make a shallow cut into both sides of each hotdog before putting them over the fire so that they cook all the way through. Turn them frequently because it is easy to forget about them and burn them.

Steak and chicken are two more barbecuing favorites. It is more difficult to keep steak juicy when it is cooked on the grill rather than in a pan. It needs to be seasoned before putting it on the grill and it needs to be either marinated beforehand or sauced while it is being cooked. Some of my favorite seasonings and sauces are garlic salt, cumin, Italian seasoning, A1, and Worcestershire sauce. Grilling chicken is healthier and easier than frying it. Clean and boil the chicken to prepare it for grilling. Cook it until it gains color. I like to spread barbecue sauce over it right after it comes off of the fire.

During the summer, barbecues happen all the time. Special events like birthdays and graduations often need to be accompanied by large amounts of food, and the grill is a quick and easy way to cook in large quantities. You may even want to host your own barbecue for a special occasion or just for fun. The next time you are the one manning the grill, use this information to make your grilling safer and your food better.

“Man plans, and God laughs.”

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“Man plans, and God laughs” —Yiddish Proverb

Recently, I’ve had a lot of plans.
Recently, nothing has gone as planned. 

If you’ve read my posts before, you know that I run a worship practice every Wednesday night for the teens in my youth group. Two weeks ago, I was hoping to work with just the singers (since there are usually about 8-10 of them), but how many showed up? Just one. So, I had to shuffle things around and formulate a plan B. Last week, I was hoping to go out to dinner with my family, but had to go to a last-minute meeting for work. This week, the youth group is going on a beach trip and, unfortunately, it’s supposed to rain almost every day. Recently, my life has been a conglomeration of canceled plans, rearranged appointments, and hurried finalizations, all because my plans fail to work out…well…as planned.

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I’ve heard a lot of talk in my life of God opening and shutting doors. It’s a lot easier to understand God taking away opportunities or experiences when it’s obvious that they’re not pleasing to Him. The hardest thing to try and understand is why God would take away an opportunity that you’re so sure was for His glory.

I could go on about trusting God and being more relaxed with your busy schedule. But, here’s the bottom line: God knows better than me. God knows better than you. God knows better than your planner, and God knows better than your schedule. God knows what you don’t, and that’s you. That’s right, folks, God knows you better than you know yourself because he is aware of your past, present, and future (In case you haven’t noticed, you were only there for 2 of those 3 things).

Proverbs 16:3– “Commit to the Lord whatever you do, and he will establish your plans.”
Proverbs 16:9– “In their hearts, humans plan their course, but the Lord establishes their steps.”
Proverbs 19:21– “Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.”

These are just some things God has been teaching me, and as I find both my summer halfway over and lots of unknowns in the year to come, these are the things I hope to remember. I truly believe that these everyday occurrences are little lessons that God sends our way, hoping that maybe eventually, we’ll catch on.

Are you interested in a Christian college?  Nyack offers great programs from nursing to criminal justice.  Request more information today!

God is the MASTER of Blowing Minds

Missions trip fund

An envelope I received through Nyack/ATS campus mail! Giving $205 towards my missions to Brazil!

These past few weeks have been nothing short of inexplicable. I could come up with a ton of fancy words and phrases to describe the moments, encounters, prayers and day by day occurrences, but none could capture my thoughts quite like ” God is the Master of Blowing minds…”

Worship @ LCC

Holy Spirit Weekend @ Living Christ Church; Worship: Andrew Meher, Julie Hodson,  Matt Ellenberger and yours truly!

 

From seeing someone completely healed from a spinal injury (amongst the many who were physically, emotionally and spiritually healed during Holy Spirit weekend at my church, Living Christ church in Nyack), to watching financial provision pour in through my community to support the missions trip to Brazil,to my amazing ATS and NYACK friends who put together a wonderful last-minute Birthday party for me, God has not once stopped to amaze me recently.

CTA button for Blog ATSYes, even after the car accident (yeahhh… I crashed my car into the back of cab on the FDR…), I saw Gods incredible purpose, when I was able to share His love with my tow truck driver. Who afterwards told me, that usually Christians get angry and argue with him when he shares his beliefs and he couldn’t believe how nice I was… I mean come on; only God could put something together like that.

Fancy  Pants

My co-workers at ATS admissions showed me love on my Birthday… By writing ALL over my windows haha

God is a ninja, a master at blowing minds.

He knows exactly what we need and when we need it. He knows how to deliver, how to captivate our hearts and how go above and beyond what we could ever ask, think of, or imagine. And that’s just it, GOD DESIRES to blow our minds. He desires to do the inexplicable. He seeks for every opportunity to display His glory in our lives. He gets a thrill out of working ALLLLLLL things together for our good ( Romans 8:28). And He thoroughly enjoys putting a smile on one of His kid’s faces.

God, is a good God. Nothing, no circumstance, mishap, disease, trouble, violence, natural disaster could ever negate that truth. And truly it is up to us, to see HIM for who He is and seek HIM for what he wants to offer us; His mind-blowing presence in every corner of our lives.

Bday party

These people made my birthday a special and blessed one!

The reason my mind is being blown so much lately is because I finally understand that God wants to do the incredible and give us the incredible, because HE is the incredible one. And He wants to give us HIMSELF.

I can seek God for finances, a spouse, provisions for my job, (insert any other need here)… But friends there is something so much greater to seek God for and that’s HIM!

Don’t get me wrong; I am not saying to not pray for anything you need, I am a firm believer in the effectiveness of our prayers for all and in all things.

BUT I AM saying; SEEK HIM FIRST. You’ve heard it before, “seek first the kingdom and all its righteousness and everything else will be added onto you.” Matt 6:33

God is not a means to an end my friends. HE IS THE END. HE IS beyond anything we could ever ask for, think of, or imagine…( Ephesians 3:20)

And so my ninja God, who has so masterfully exploded my mind lately, longs to do the same for you! Because he’s a master at blowing minds and He loves to do so! =)

intentionally diverse

Me+friends from ATS/Nyack= Intentionally Diverse

 

The Next Step After College?

Columbia Visit

As the summer before my final year of college goes by, I can’t help but wonder what the next step in my life will hold for me. I am experiencing the same type of excitement and anxiousness that I felt as high school graduation neared, and I’m sure that the rest of the seniors are feeling it as well. This past week my girlfriend and I took a trip to Manhattan to visit graduate schools. She plans on going to law school and I want to go to a seminary after I graduate from college. During our time at the different schools, questions such as “Where will I end up after I graduate?” and “Is graduate school worth it?” arose in my mind.

A few days after our trip to the city, I had a conversation with my cousin about what happens once college is over. He told me some alarming stories about friends of his who never found jobs in their field. He knows brilliant law school graduates working as waitresses and college alumni tending bars. He also told me some great success stories; he found a great job in his field as did a number of people he knows. The conversation was both discouraging and encouraging. It seems that there are similar chances of succeeding and failing.

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Once I graduate, the next step that I plan to take is graduate school at a seminary institution. I aim to obtain a masters degree in a biblical or theological field, earn a PhD, and teach at the college level in a Christian school. I feel confident about the path I am choosing to take because it is not a very common career choice, so I will not have as much competition as would a doctor or lawyer.

One of the things about post-college studies that stands out the most to me is the financial aspect of it. My mom often tells horror stories about graduates with unbearable student loans that take decades to pay off; I do not want to end up as the subject of one of those horror stories. From what I have learned from people who have gone through studies after college, the most important things to keep in mind when considering the finances of graduate school are to plan ahead and stay realistic. Know in advance what type of salary you will expect after coming out of graduate school, and make sure your loans do not exceed that amount.

Like me, many seniors are considering graduate studies, but graduate school is not for everyone. For many people, more schooling would mean more time, effort, and money than it is worth. It is important to choose a path that will be satisfying to you in the long run, whether that means continuing your schooling or going directly into the work force.

The Commute

Commute

Commute

Imagine this: you had to roll out of bed earlier than you wanted to, an hour-long drive lies between your home and your job, and you have an eight hour day of work to look forward to when you get there. Then you have to drive an hour to get back home. Your back and neck are stiff, your eyelids feel heavy, and your driving leg is killing you. Do you feel stressed yet? Now imagine doing it Monday through Friday for over a decade. That’s what my dad, and many other men and women like him, has had to do for years. I never understood how difficult this was until this summer when I entered the “real world” and started working a little less than an hour away from home, pretty near to where my dad works. I have learned a lot about what my dad goes through by experiencing it for myself.

On days that we are both able to do it, my dad and I ride to work together, but there have been plenty of days when I had to commute on my own. Often, it is hard to keep my eyes open and there is no one talking to you to keep you awake. I have to drive to work without enough sleep and I have to drive back from work after a slow, uneventful day. I am usually tired, cranky, and unpleasant at the end of a workday. What amazes me is that my dad is able to do this five days a week and still be pleasant and fun when he gets home. Doing what he does has caused me to appreciate him more than I did previously. When we ride together, I get to learn a lot about him through the conversations we have. These conversations and the stories that he tells reinforce the qualities that are already apparent, such as strength and determination.

When I was a child I did not fully understand the difficulties that my parents face to provide for our family, and I did not appreciate their struggles. Now that I face some of those difficulties for myself, I am more easily able to relate to and comprehend what my mom and dad have to do to keep our family fed and clothed. An hour commute has changed my perspective on my father and what he does and goes through for me. It’s hard to appreciate your parents or guardians when you do not understand their struggle, but before you get upset with them for being stressed out or angry with you, remember what they go through to provide for you and try to imagine yourself in their place.

Expanding the Kingdom this Summer

It is so clearly God’s heart that everyone should come to know him. He commands us in the Bible to be a Church that goes to the nations to declare his glory. This looks different for every person and in every situation. At some points this could mean evangelizing to your family, your neighborhood, or even going out into world and finding those who have yet to hear the good news of Jesus. I feel incredibly blessed this summer to be able to spread the good news of Jesus Christ to the young people of Ohio through serving at Beulah Beach Camp.

Summer camp, with all its crazy dances, authentic times of worship, and warm campfires has run through my veins since before I was born. In fact, the first time I came to Beulah Beach was in my mom’s stomach to family camp months before I was even born. Beulah sits on the shores of Vermilion, Ohio and is only an hour away from my house. Somehow, every summer I have ended up back here. It started as coming for weeks with my family which led to week long overnight camps. Then at age 14 I started to volunteer on staff leading to joining the summer-long staff after I graduated high school. And I sit here now with Lake Erie in front of me preparing for my second summer on leadership here. I owe so much of who I am to this place and I feel so blessed to be able to give back even just a little by being on staff. It is at this camp where I have seen my faith grow, felt the call to missions, made countless friends and had countless bellyaches from too much laughter.

Now I’m back to continue in ministry as we seek to take the experience of camp on the road to different Churches all around Ohio. We get the unique experience of partnering with various churches in the area to give kids who might not otherwise have been able to go to camp the chance to experience it and reach them with the Gospel. My team and I are really excited to get the summer started and see the many ways that God is going to work in the lives of kids this summer. We are asking God for big things and trusting that many lives will be eternally affected. I am especially looking forward to putting the many lessons I learned this past year into practice. It will be great to serve with the extended family of Christ this summer, but continue to share in the prayers and workings of the Church as a whole.

Healthy Living: Live Longer, Live Better

Pierce out to EatThe summer is a time for celebration; graduations, birthdays, and barbeques are commonplace during this time of year. In our society, when someone says “Let’s celebrate!” they are really saying “Let’s eat!” Being docile is also easy to do during our time off from school. Those who work in an office setting may find it difficult to stay active.  Healthy living is difficult when so many things around us act as deterrents to our health. Unfortunately, many of the things that are most enjoyable are the same things that can negatively affect our health and shorten our lives. Making small, subtle changes to your habits and routines is the best way to live healthier, longer, and better.

I have been back home for less than a month, and I have already gone out to eat five times for different occasions. My most recent outing involved eating a pretty large lunch at home and then going out to Johnny Rocket’s to catch up with an old friend (I regretted eating all of that food later…). One way that I counterbalance the unhealthiness (and expensiveness) of eating at restaurants is by replacing carbonated, sugary drinks with water. Carbonated drinks like soda slow down the body’s metabolism, causing more of the food that you are digesting to be stored as fat. Water does nothing but hydrates the body (and it’s free!). Sticking to water will be better for your belly and your wallet. Another way to make going out to eat more healthy is to put some of it in a box and put it in the fridge for later. Most restaurant food is not very healthy to begin with, but sitting there and eating enough for two or three people, of which I am often guilty, multiplies the damage that it does to the body. Saving some of the food for later makes eating out less of a problem.

I am used to being a life guard during the summer, which is usually a very active job. This summer, though, I am working in an office, which requires me to remain sitting for the better part of an eight hour day. Through working in this setting I have realized how difficult it must be for full-time workers in an office setting to stay active and healthy. I have come up with a few tricks to help make the work day less inactive. First, find a reason to get up out of your seat a few times every hour. I go as far as to schedule how often and at what times I will get up; I walk to the water cooler to get a drink every thirty minutes. You can go to the bathroom, walk over to speak with someone, run a work-related errand, or just stand up and stretch. Second, be active when you are away from work. Go for a jog in the mornings or play a sport with friends after you get home. To do nothing but sit for hours at work is made worse for your health by doing nothing but sit when you come home.

The enjoyable things in life do not have to be detrimental to your health. Celebrations that involve eating do not have to ruin your body, and inactivity at work does not have to make you an inactive person. A few small adjustments are all it takes to keep fun things from damaging you. I hope that you have a healthy summer and a long, healthy life.

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