In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven. Matthew 5:16

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Quick Inspiration

I've recently become a huge fan of Pinterest. If you're not familiar with the site, it's basically an online community of people sharing cute ideas for crafts, art, decor, recipes, etc via "pins" on their "boards" for individual topics. I've created one called Founded in Faith where I pin inspirational quotes and scripture (usually in an artistic form). I figured I would share some of my pins on the blog for my readers.
Always room for improvement in each of us...  I definitely need to be reminded of this. Great advice :) Always give thanks! Leap of faith. 

Share what inspires you!

Monday, September 12, 2011

Every Student

Just wanted to quickly share a resource I came across today.

There are tons of articles and videos on countless topics. If you have any questions that are puzzling you or if you're just looking to learn something new about your faith, you'll probably be able to find something worth reading here.

I hope everyone is enjoying the beginning of fall and is learning how to better stand on and look to God for support and guidance.

Have any resources you'd love to share? Feel free to post something about them!

Monday, September 5, 2011

Staying Focused: The 4 D's of Devotion

First of all, I should apologize for my absence. I've certainly been letting the "back-to-school" stress get a hold on me. But, I'm sure I'm not alone in this. When realizing how long it's really been since I last posted, I figured it would be fitting to write about staying focused on our faith.

Being an education major, I know the value of memory techniques... so, even though we aren't learning our ABC's for the first time, I'm sure it will be easier to have some "take-away" if I spell it out for you.

That being said, here are my Four D's of Devotion.
1. Devote (I know it's in the title... obviously, it's important)
2. Dialogue (If it bugs you that this one is the only non-verb, then just use "discuss)
3. Decipher
4. Decide

1. Let's start at the beginning: Devote. What exactly are we supposed to devote ourselves to? Well, lots of things. Our faith is all encompassing. He created this world and everything in it. He gave us His word, His son, and His love. We devote ourselves to Him... His word, His son, and His love are all included in our devotion to Him. Our individual faith may go through periods of extreme focus, disconnect, or distraction. However, this does not ever have to mean that we pause or end our devotion to Him. Keeping a schedule is the best way to stay focused and devoted.

Tip #1: Sign up for a daily devotional. You may set a devotional book on your bedside table and overlook it day after day. Personally, I am signed up for the Purpose Driven Connection daily devotional. I know that everyday I check my email, and by no effort of my own I get an email every morning from Rick Warren. I don't have to remember to open a book or go on a website. Since devotionals are usually short and to-the-point, they don't take a ton of time. For me, the challenge is remembering to read it everyday and having it pop up in my inbox everyday makes it effortless.

Tip #2: Program one of your radio pre-sets to a Christian station. If you hear people praising Him every time you turn on the car or every time your regular station plays commercials, then you're far more likely to think about Him during your day.

Tip #3 Devote Weekly time in His service. Chances are your church needs your help in some ministry in the church. By taking the plunge and joining a bible study, Sunday school class, committee, or volunteer position, you have scheduled time that you're expected to devote to the church. All you gotta do is sign up, and then you're far more likely to go every week. By getting involved, you're integrating Him into a permanent position in your life. Bonus: you're serving Him and spreading His word and His impact.

2. Dialogue: This can mean a lot of things. Basically, there are 3 main groups to chat with: people you know, people you don't, and God. Talking with family members and friends (within or outside the church) will help you to solidify and understand your beliefs. The more you talk with the people you're comfortable with, the more you can strengthen your faith. Talking with people you don't know is certainly more challenging. If you're so bold, talk to people who haven't heard, understood, or ascribed to the Christian faith. By being able to explain and support your beliefs you will spread His impact and solidify your set of beliefs and values. The key here is respect. You are FAR less likely to positively impact others with hostile, confrontational discussion. Too many people frighten others away from His grace by HOW they choose to engage with others. It's not a matter of WHO you talk to and WHAT you say so much as HOW you say it. Lastly, you must must must talk with God. He want to talk to you and you NEED to talk to Him. Making a habit of daily, frequent prayer and dialogue will do wonders for your faith. It doesn't mean you're gonna hear a loud booming voice answer back to your every question. What it does mean is you will lean strongly on a foundation of faith. You will find comfort in confessing and conversing with Him, and He will smile on your devotion.

3. Decipher: One of the greatest gifts Christians have is the Holy Bible. God's rules, guidelines, wishes, and history are written down and completely accessible to us. To not completely absorb and indulge into this text is a terrible waste. By reading and deciphering His word, we can understand His wishes and gifts. We can learn how to live our daily lives, how to better ourselves, how to deal with others, and how to gain life eternal. By "decipher" I don't mean to imply that the Holy Bible is a big mystery written in code. But it can be challenging to read. That's why there are so many translations, so everyone can find a version that is easily understood. By decipher I rather mean, we should read the Bible and figure out why God has laid down certain rules and guidelines and HOW you can apply them to your life. The Bible is full of metaphors and symbols. It is our duty to figure out how these words apply to us individually. You may not ever consider gouging out someone's eye, but you may be faced with a choice between revenge or simply moving through strength of will. God may be saying to you that you should not seek to "get even." Read the Bible. Decipher it's teachings. Apply them to your daily life. Slowly you will become a stronger Christian. You'll end up practicing what you preach (or read).

4. Decide: none of this works if you don't make the effort. You must make a conscious choice to put your faith at the forefront of your life. Decide to lead with the right foot. Decide to follow the straight and narrow path. Decide to make a habit of prayer, of reading your Bible, of discussing and strengthening your faith. Decide to get involved in your church (and therefore the Christian community). Decide to take the opportunity to make an impact with His teachings. All of these choices are given to you everyday. Decide to make the right (and often challenging) choice and your life path will begin to mirror His wishes and His ideal.

I pray that all of you are successfully getting back in the groove of school (or work). I pray that you can find a way to apply these suggestions to your life and that your lives begin to become a stronger reflection of your faith. Don't let the challenges and distractions of your day-to-day take you off your foundation of faith. I pray that we all can stay focused and faithful to Him, so that our lives and choices are pleasing to Him.

May God Bless You All,
Emily Gray

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

NIV Study Bible

My greatest resource as a Christian is my Bible. It's the greatest tangible resource any Christian has. This summer I purchased an NIV study Bible, and it's by far one of the best purchases I have EVER made. The translation itself is my personal favorite but it's all the stuff past the Bible itself that I love. There are 4 different indexes that are incredible. It may sound silly but let me explain.

First there's an index of all the people and places and such, which, along with maps and timelines in the front of the Bible, help you understand the historical context of every character and chapter. Certainly, the Bible is just as relevant today as it was when it was written. That being said, understanding the context helps to clarify the ideas, expose important details, and help us understand how profound Jesus' teachings were. For me, it helps take the Bible from a collection of really important stories and teaching to something I can compare to my life. You will never truly understand the Bible unless you understand how, where, and under what circumstances all the stories happened. You're only getting a small part of the Bible if you read it without the context.

The next index has a list of every place certain key words occur. If you're wanting to know everywhere the word "peace" occurs all you have to do is flip to the back of the book.

Then, there's an index similar to the previous that has a short excerpt for each appearance of a word. This is convenient if you want to read each appearance of a word without the verses before and after it.

Finally, my favorite index outlines each key concept of the Bible. Under specific topics you can read how they are defined and explained in the Bible. For example, under perseverance there is the definition "remaining firm in out fairth" followed by points a)Chapters with perseverance as a theme, B) God perseverance us in our faith, C)We must persevere ourselves in our faith. Under A, B, and C there are multiple sub points with textual references for each point. Under C, for example, you'll find "the command to persevere" with 3 references, "the command to use spiritual armor" with 2 references, "the warning not to turn away from God" with 4 references, and "the possibility of rejecting the faith" with 4 references.

My NIV Study Bible is published by Zondervan Bible, which has tons of Bibles with different translations and themes (life application, one year, study bibles, etc). My version has historical and comprehensive introductions to each book, 75 maps and charts, over 20,000 notes to explain each verse and concept, and notes to reference where to find more information on characters and places. I can't even begin to explain the difference between reading "this is my body which is for you; do this in remembrance of me" in a purse size Bible and then having my NIV study Bible which explains at the bottom of the page "my body The broken bread as a symbol of Christ's body given for sinners (see Luke 22:19) in remembrance of me As, the Feast of Passover was a commemorative meal (see Exodus 12:14), so also the Lord's Supper is a memorial supper, recalling and portraying Christ's death for sinners." What a difference this makes! It allows me to transition from reading the Bible to understanding and learning the Bible. Believe me, there's a big difference.
My Bible was listed for $40 but I got it for $12 with free shipping on Amazon. However, if you can't find that good of a deal, just remember that a Bible is definitely one of the best investments you can make.What's your favorite style Bible? Have you ever learned a part of the Bible's history or context that surprised you or helped you understand a verse better? Please share!

Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God. Colossians 3:16

I pray each of you can further develop your knowledge of God's word by learning your Bible and understanding it's teachings. If your not in the market for a new Bible anytime soon, there are countless resources online that can help you understand the context of the Bible and explain individual verses. Challenge yourself to not just read your Bible but fully understand what it's teaching and why.

May God Bless You All,
Emily Gray

Thursday, July 7, 2011

What Brad Paisley and John Wesley can Teach Us About Hell

A friend of mine recently posted a link to a really great article on her Facebook page.
The article and the song it refers to are truly inspiring. I thought I would simply share both with you, and I hope you enjoy. I certainly could write an entire post about each... but sometimes it's best if I just keep quiet and let you discover things like this on your own.

What Brad Paisley and John Wesley can Teach Us About Hell


Keepin' It Mobile with YouVersion

I love my iPhone. Anytime someone has a random questions it takes me 2 seconds flat to pull out my iPhone and Google it. My boyfriend will tease me any chance he gets about it: "Oh here comes the Google girl...What'd ya find Google girl?" He can tease all he wants, but I really enjoy having the internet at my fingertips. I hate leaving questions unanswered or not being able to remember a detail. "What's the name of that actor?" or "What year did such-and-such happen?"... Those kinds of questions aren't unanswered for long because me and my phone work together like magic.  It's also pretty handy when I get bored and I have about a million apps to play with.

Recently, I've discovered a new app that I LOVE, and I want to share it with all of you. It's available for any smartphone, iPad, etc. YouVersion is a program that has an interactive Bible. You can browse through scripture in almost any translation. They also offer countless study plans, devotionals, and list live events in your area. When you're reading the Bible, you have the option to add bookmarks and notes to certain passages. They also have a website with even more resources. I try to take 10-15 minutes a day on my bus ride to school going through a couple reading plans. YouVersion has tons of topical plans, so you are sure to find something that can help you with anything going on in your life. From relationships to grief, there's a plan on just about any topic you can imagine. You can make a free account with YouVersion and access your notes, bookmarks, and reading plans from any computer or smart phone. Creating an account also allows you share any passage with your friends via email, Twitter, or Facebook.

So go to the iTunes App Store and find the FREE YouVersion Bible app. Or, go to YouVersion.Com and check out what they have to offer. I can say from experience that it's so handy to have a Bible on hand whenever you need it. No heavy book to carry around just your smart phone or iPad... or home computer.

Psalm 119:105 "Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path."

2 Timothy 3:16-17
"All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work."

I pray that each of you makes time to read God's word. Hopefully, YouVersion will help you find this time wherever you may be. I encourage you to pray that God illuminates His word to you so that you can be moved by the power it has. The Bible is without a doubt the greatest text every created. It's such a gift to experience it, so take the time to listen to what God is speaking to you through scripture.

May God Bless You All,
Emily Gray

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

The Amish Aren't All Amiss

Does it say in the Bible that we should wear old fashioned clothes? Are we instructed to toil for hours on our farms while refusing to use modern machinery? Does scripture demand us to refuse perfectly good technology? No. So what's the deal with the Amish? They would argue that the Bible doesn't doesn't say that explicitly but that the way they interpret the Bible does. "How so?" you may ask. 

The Amish actually have a pretty decent idea. You won't see me giving up my car, iPhone, Facebook, etc anytime soon (though I should mentioned that some of the more progressive Amish have been spotted using all of the above). However, their basic concepts are something we could all incorporate into our lives. In fact, I will argue that we all should incorporate their ideas. 

The Amish come from Switzerland and split from the Mennonites in the 17th century when they wished to regain the strict discipline that the Mennonites had (in the opinion of the Amish) grown away from. They are generally considered Anabaptist (not to be confused with Baptist). In America, they are concentrated in Lancaster County, PA and Ohio. They tend to speak a combination of English, German, and European dialects. Their conviction to their beliefs is truly remarkable. They never take up arms and reject all military involvement and war. They are strong believers in the separation of church and state... which is something many modern Evangelicals and politicians have come to disregard even though it's a founding principle of America. They are patriarchal but consider women of equal importance in society. There is no record of any Amish engaging in slave trade or ownership despite how commonplace slavery was in early America. They have become officially exempted from paying into and receiving Social Security and Medicare. They still use earth-friendly energy sources like wind energy (which is notable since America is now trying to go back to how the Amish have created/used energy all along). They all attend their own schools, and they all attend church twice a week. But the three most notable values in my opinion are their (1) view of salvation, (2) focus on their Christian community and (3) practice of rumspringa (don't get excited... it's not a Swiss Oktoberfest despite the word's appearance).

1. I have taken the following explanation from because it clearly explains the Amish view of salvation better than I could on my own. "Essentially all conservative Protestants, including Amish, look upon salvation as an unmerited gift from God. However, Evangelical Christians have traditionally looked upon the salvation experience as an intense emotional event which happens suddenly, as a convert repents of their sin and accepts Jesus as Lord and Savior. The new Christian's subsequent ethical behavior and daily routine are of secondary importance to the experience of being saved. The Amish have always looked upon salvation as being experienced in everyday living. Salvation is "...realized as one's life was transformed day by day into the image of Christ." For Evangelicals and other conservative Protestants, salvation is an unmistakable experience which happens when one trusts Jesus. Amish are different. They don't believe that anyone is guaranteed salvation as a result of a conversion experience, baptism, joining the church, etc. "...they would consider it arrogant or prideful to claim certainty of salvation." The Amish believe that God carefully weighs the individual's total lifetime record of obedience to the church and then decides whether the person's eternal destiny will be the reward of Heaven or the punishment in Hell. If a person is baptized into the Amish church and later leaves the church or is excommunicated, they have no hope of attaining Heaven. As a result, an Amish believer lives their life and dies not knowing if they are saved and will attain Heaven. This lack of certainty has made the Amish church susceptible to raiding from other Christian evangelists at various times in its history."

2. I guess I still haven't explained what's up with the "vintage" apparel and lack of electricity. It all has to do with community. Amish reject current technology for a period of time in order to ensure their lifestyle and community is not weakened by turning their focus to making their daily lives easy. I'll explain further. Let's look at the tractor. For a while after its invention, Amish did not use tractors. Instead they used the same implements they had used for centuries. They would not jump at the chance to own a new piece of machinery because it (1) is materialistic and (2) would immediately change their way of life and simply make him a "slave" to technology and progress. Instead the Amish choose to focus on a slower pace of advancement... which they can consciously choose to control. Today, most Amish use modern tractors, while some still choose to use tractors with steel tires instead of rubber ones. Generally, the church as a whole decides what technology is acceptable (and when) and different churches have different rules. Nowadays many Amish use phones, electricity, etc, because they have learned to use the technology. They do this while still keeping their focus the Lord and on earning their livelihood on individual hard work. How many times have we wasted money on something thinking it's going to make our lives better? Don't we know that any challenges we face can be overcome through help from the Lord and simply personally coping with the problem? Material things cannot fix our problems... too often we are deceived by our society and markets. The ultimate problem solver is God. Most strict Evangelicals are politically/fiscally conservative. Most do not support government social programs that allow "handouts" for individuals who do not earn their keep. We understand the concept of earning our livelihood, but we forget that the money we earn is meant to pay our bills... not solve our problems. We should turn our eyes to God for support... not our wallets. Don't worry about getting the new pair of designer jeans or a bigger TV (especially if you already have a decent sized one anyway). Instead, challenge yourself to buy what you need and focus the rest of your energy on working hard... on family, on God, on improving your relationships. Use your time to improve yourself instead of your material possessions. 

3. Rumspringa is a time in every Amish teen's life (at age 16) when they are sent away from their home to experience the non-Amish lifestyle. They use this time to see what living outside their community is like and to decide if they want to come back to their home, get baptized, and join the church or if they want to leave and become permanently excommunicated from their community. In my opinion, we don't need to kick out our 16 year old kids and tell 'em to go check out the big bad world and come home if they want. They grew up in the world that the Amish focusing on sheltering the children from. However, I really like the idea of bringing your children up in a strong Christian home and then allowing them a time to see what other viewpoints and lifestyles offer so they can decide on their own what they want for their future. If raised right, I think most children would see the benefits of a home rooted in Christian values, love and support for one another, and moral behavior. Freedom and bad behavior may seem appealing at first, but children who understand what is really important in life long term will see how the wide, frequently traveled road is shallow and without direction. The straight and narrow path leads to eternal life, fulfillment through the Lord, and a life modeled after His own.

If you want to learn more, I highly recommend "The Amish: A People of Preservation." It's on instant Netflix, and it's very comprehensive. Plus, it's less than an hour long. They have withstood the test of time, so it's worth seeing what they're all about. It's also available for $1.99 on Amazon.

I pray each of you can find a way to see the benefits of some of the Amish beliefs and practices. Find a way to incorporate noble values into your own life. It doesn't mean you have to start sewing your own wardrobe, but it might help you better organize your priorities. They sacrifice a great deal for their faith, and all of us should too.

Be not conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind that ye may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God. (Romans 12:2) 

May God Bless You All,
Emily Gray

Monday, July 4, 2011

Give Me That Old Time Religion

The song says it all... old time religion can do so much for us. But how can it apply to us today?
How can it be good enough for me if I live in a different time than my mother, than Paul and Silas, than the first Hebrew children.

This week I'm going to focus on lessons we can learn from some of the oldest Christian groups in America. The Amish, Shakers, Puritans, and Quakers, etc all have great teachings. This doesn't mean we need to live like them to worship the Lord in a way that pleases Him, but I want to show some of their noteworthy practices we can benefit from.

On a quick side note, today is the 4th of July, a day to celebrate all of the freedoms this great country affords us. Praise the Lord that we can worship him freely. We live in such a wonderful country to be able to worship, praise, and pray to our Savior without being punished by law. It's a freedom so many live without. Tonight, thank the Lord for this freedom we have and pray that more will come to know that freedom every day.

Today, I will talk about the pilgrims (in Plymouth) who were Separatists and Puritans. Their ideas are those that helped to shape this great nation. Puritans wished to purify the Anglican church. They felt that the Anglican church still shared many beliefs of the Catholic church that should have been eliminated during the Protestant Reformation. The Puritans wished to make their worship, beliefs, and prayer pure by focusing on individual and group piety. They also, as Separatists, wishes to make church independent  from the Anglican Church. Not all Puritans in America were separatists, but those who settled in Plymouth, MA were Many also supported the idea of separation of church and state, which is a vital part of make-up as a nation.

Many believe that the Puritans were sexist and did not respect women as they did men. This is untrue; in fact, the woman's role was imperative in the Puritan community. Women were given the responsibility of raising godly, moral children and ensuring a harmonious marriage. The role of women was constantly in the spotlight and was an integral part of each community's success.

The original Puritan churches eventually led to some of the Unitarian and Presbyterian churches in American today. We can thank them for creating churches that allow a true, pure relationship with the Lord, churches whose doctrines are purely based on the Bible's teaching and are untainted by government or corrupt hierarchies. Their churches are focused on creating a community/family of faith, not of idolatry.

Tonight we should each thank the Lord for all the freedoms this country allows. We should also thank Him for all the freedoms He has given us. So often we focus on all the rules and regulations and restrictions... when in fact worshiping our Lord makes us free, not bound. We are given bountiful blessings and endless opportunities through him, all from simply choosing to live a life as He instructs. What an awesome God we worship! and God Bless America!

May God Bless You All,
Emily Gray

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

The 4 Steps of Prayer

Often we may ask how we are supposed to pray. What are we supposed to say? How can we make sure he hears our message? How can I pray so that God is pleased with my thanks and eager to fulfill my pleas?

Prayer is a way for us to communicate with our Lord... to thank Him, to make requests, and to talk with Him about our hopes and needs. He hears all of our messages, and He knows what is in our hears.When we pray, we must make sure to come to him knowing that His will shall be done whether our wishes are satisfied or not. His will is what is always best for us even if we must endure trails and challenges. We can never predict what the future holds, but we are always allowed, in fact we are encouraged, to ask for the Lord's help.

There are 4 basic steps in prayer:

First, we must address God. Start by saying "Heavenly Father" or "Our Father in Heaven." We pray to the Father because He is the one who gave us life, who created the Earth, and to whom we owe everything.G

Second, give thanks. Before we make any requests, we must acknowledge all the amazing blessings God has given us. Show the Father that you are grateful for how He is working in your life.

Next, ask. Sometimes it is appropriate to say a short prayer simply giving thanks, but even then you have the opportunity to ask God to continue to help with challenges you may face in the future. Other times, we pray when something is heavy on our heart. This is the time to ask God for guidance, assistance, peace, resolution, or healing. God is aware of every problem you are facing at any moment; prayer is our way to show God that we understand that He has the ultimate power to help and guide us through these problems.

Finally, close in the name of Jesus. "In Jesus' name we pray, Amen" is all we need to end a prayer. We close in the name of Jesus because His sacrifice is what allows us to reach Heaven after death.

These easy guidelines can help to make your prayers clear and meaningful while giving the appropriate respect to our creator.

I pray that each of you can strengthen your prayers and become more confident and reliant in them. It's a wonderful way to communicate with the creator and daily, even hourly, prayer will keep your faith close to your heart. Please feel free to share your insights and tips to help improve our prayers.

May God bless you all,
Emily Gray

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Netflix Picks

Netflix has just about every movie you could ever want. I signed up my first year in college and its definitely the best $8 I spend every month. The best part of the deal is all the great movies you can watch at anytime via laptop, game console, or blu-ray player. I'm gonna give you my top 10 picks for Christian movies/documentaries that you can watch off their instant queue. If you don't have Netflix, I strongly encourage you to try their one month free trial! You've got nothing to lose, and the options on the instant queue are amazing (tons of tv shows, documentaries, classic movies, and comedies).

Top 10 picks (in no particular order)
1. God in America
2. The Case for Christ
3. Max Lucado 3:16
4. Christianity and Islam
5. God of Wonders
6. Letters to God
7. The Secrets of Jonathan Sperry
8. The Case for Faith
9. Who Was Jesus?
10.The Company: Inigo and His Jesuits

Now pop a bag of popcorn and snuggle under a blanket for some good movie time!

My son, if you accept my words and store up my commands within you, turning your ear to wisdom and applying your heart to understanding— indeed, if you call out for insight, and cry aloud for understanding, and if you look for it as for silver and search for it as for hidden treasure, then you will understand the fear of the LORD and find the knowledge of God. For the LORD gives wisdom; from his mouth come knowledge and understanding. He holds success in store for the upright, he is a shield to those whose walk is blameless,  for he guards the course of the just and protects the way of his faithful ones. Proverbs 2:1-10

This passage encourages us to learn more about our Lord and educate ourselves in His teachings, so we can understand how wise and strong our God is. We cannot be true faithful followers if we do not understand who we are following. Of course, we should learn as much as we can from out Biblical teachers and pastors and read our Bible. However, watching documentaries and spiritual-themed movies can also show us the teachings of the Lord while giving us an example of modern-day followers. Enjoy!

Thursday, June 23, 2011

How Great Thou Art

Ephesians 5:19-20
 "speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ."
Stanza 1:
O Lord my God,
When I in awesome wonder
Consider all
The works Thy Hand hath made,
I see the stars,
I hear the rolling thunder,
Thy pow'r throughout
The universe displayed;

Then sings my soul,
My Saviour God, to Thee,
How great Thou art!
How great Thou art!
Then sings my soul,
My Saviour God, to Thee,
How great Thou art!
How great Thou art

Stanza 2:
When Christ shall come,
With shouts of acclamation,
And take me home,
What joy shall fill my heart!
Then I shall bow
In humble adoration
And there proclaim,
"My God, how great Thou art!"

Then sings my soul,
My Saviour God, to Thee,
How great Thou art!
How great Thou art!
Then sings my soul,
My Saviour God, to Thee,
How great Thou art!
How great Thou art!

I really like this song, and I LOVE this version by Carrie Underwood. But let's be honest, most of us can't belt it out like her. But as we are instructed in Ephesians, Chapter 5, we should sing from the heart and praise God for all the great things He has done in our lives. So, whatever your singing may sound like, just sing from the heart and praise God for all the blessings He has granted to you.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Forgiveness Part 2

After reflecting on my last point, I thought of a few additions to the concept.

Ephesians 4:32 "Be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another just as God through Christ has forgiven you."

First, remember that forgiveness does not depend upon an apology. Whether or not your transgressor decides to, wants to, or realizes he needs to apologize, forgive. Be the one to start the process of solving a conflict. The action shows you are strong, resilient, and kindhearted (all qualities of our Lord).

Second, not all conflicts require a face-to-face apology (or e-apology, phone call, etc.). Sometimes it's best to let it go on your own and move on. In situations where telling someone you forgive them would only rile up and provoke them, keep it to yourself. In those situations, consider the act of forgiveness a personal goal. Forgive the other in your heart and move past it. It will be a weight off your shoulders.

Also, realize that forgiving someone else will often benefit you more than the other person. Why not help yourself and release the stress?  Who cares if forgiving someone in your heart means they don't KNOW that you forgave them? It shouldn't matter. You are the one who needs to learn the act of forgiveness. If we wish to be more Christ-like, we should learn to practice one of his greatest actions... forgiveness of sins.

Remember 1 Corinthians 3:15, love keeps no record of wrongs. When you forgive someone, even though you won't forget what they did, if you have truly forgiven them you won't throw it back in their face when you see fit. Don't forgive your boyfriend for forgetting your anniversary and then yell "remember that time...!!" when he upsets you again. If you have forgiven someone, it means you move PAST it... you don't revert back to it when you want to make a point. True forgiveness will eliminate your resentment... Think of it as a pot of water: Forgivness is not just letting it simmer down for now only to turn the heat up so it can come to a rolling boil later. It means you pour the water down the drain... or under the bridge so to say. You let it go like "water off a duck's back." The water ain't on the oven, it's not chillin' in the fridge, you didn't filter it out and pour it in the bottle... Down the drain, folks. Gone.

Finally, eliminate the word "deserve" from your vocabulary... at least in this instance. People don't need to earn your forgiveness with an apology. They often don't deserve your forgiveness... we don't deserve the forgiveness our awesome God grants us. But he gives it... just as you should. When you argue that someone doesn't "deserve" your forgiveness, you are probably whining. Certainly, there are cases when the transgressor messed up BAD and they don't deserve an ounce of your forgiveness. But you will be better for granting it. Just remember how amazing your God is to forgive you of all your sins. He can right our wrongs and make our path straight. Have a heart the pleases God: a heart the forgives the sinful. A wise preacher once told me that the rewards we receive are incredible when we actively try to develop our relationship with Christ. He is so right, so show the Lord that you wish to please him. Prove that you are able and willing to forgive others, even though they may not deserve it.

Forgiveness is a skill we learn and develop... it needs fine tuning. Tonight I pray you find the will power to develop this skill and please God with your efforts.

May God Bless You All,
Emily Gray

Tuesday, June 14, 2011


It's hard to forget that we have been forgiven by the Lord. I mean, it's darn near impossible since that was Jesus's ultimate miracle on this Earth. Because of His sacrifice, all of our sins can be forgiven. The operative word in that last sentence: can.

Over an over during our Lord's life on Earth, he said, "Your sins are forgiven." Like when He forgave and healed the paralyzed man. Jesus forgave men over and over throughout his life, and in the end He sacrificed himself to allow for the forgiveness of all our sins.

But let me get back to this "can" bit. Just because Jesus died on the cross does not mean we ARE all forgiven. We cannot just sin over and over and over and get off scott-free... we must repent. I'm sure all of us are aware that when we do something wrong, we should take the steps to correct our wrong. We must ask forgiveness and change our ways. Mankind is sinful, but our greatest goal is to try to be as Christ-like as possible. This means forgiving others of their sins while realizing that each and every one of us sins... even against each other. So many of us forget the Lord's commandment for the forgiveness of others. Sure, it's in the Lord's prayer: Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us. But how many of us really make the daily effort to release grudges (or never start them at all), to forgive those who don't even ask for our forgiveness, to forgive people who have hurt us repeatedly and may not even care? In these situations, it's a challenge to forgive.  I have found this to be an immense challenge... to say the least. I'm stubborn, defensive, and sensitive. I may wonder "Why should I forgive them when they don't even care about what they did?" Answer: That doesn't matter. It doesn't factor in. We have to rise above the sin itself... forgive and move forward.

Matthew 6:14-15 "For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins."

Mark 11:25 "And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive them, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins.”

Luke 6:37 “Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven.
Colossians 3:13 "Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you."

In my mind, there are two main points to help us forgive others.
Number 1: Realize that refusing to forgive others only hurts you in the end.
This is important for many reasons. First of all, why would you hold a grudge and spend all that energy being mad when the other person may have forgotten about their offense 5 minutes after it happened? Maybe they will ask your forgiveness, maybe they won't. Either way, letting go of the stress and pain you are holding onto is the best solution. There's no reason to let someone else control your happiness and emotion... YOU have the power to forgive and to move on. The Lord teaches us that even the most harmful sins can be forgiven, so no matter how much someone hurt you it is possible to grant them your forgiveness. Tip: Start today by forgiving small transgressions and work your way up to granting the forgiveness that's the most challenging. It takes time, but we can learn to forgive all.

Number 2: Forgive does not equal forget.
Yes, forgiving others allows us to move on, but it doesn't mean we should act like it never happened. The important part is realizing the differences between these two actions. Forgiveness means to end your resentment and anger for an action against you. Forgetting means to end your remembrance of the event. You can use others' past actions to determine who you interact with them in the future. If someone has hurt you repeatedly, it would be foolish to trust them to never do it again unless they prove to you that they have changed. However, if you  continue to resent that person, you have not truly forgiven them. The Lord teaches us to forgive others as He did. He has certainly set a perfect example for us to follow, so do your best to mirror His heart and His actions.

I'd like to share with you where I got the idea for this post. I will likely do a Bio on him soon, but tonight I will simply share a resource of his. Rick Warren is pastor of Saddleback Ministries and author of the well-known Purpose Driven Life series. He also has a Purpose Driven Connection daily email devotional. I look forward to getting mine each day. He frequently features other pastors and often writes series for the devotional. "When you are offended, choose to forgive" was a featured devotional by teacher pastor at Saddleback, Tom Holladay last week, which is where I got the idea to share this post with you.

Hope you enjoyed. Please share your thoughts and inspirations with us!

Tonight, I pray that the Lord helps give you the strength to forgive others and that he shows you those who need your forgiveness most. By following His example, we can remove resentment from our world and learn to live more like Christ everyday. By mirroring His example, others will be drawn to learn about the One who inspires us most. What a great motivation!

May God bless you all.
Emily Gray

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Growing Pains

You probably wouldn't jump off a cliff without a parachute, so why what might make you want to dive head first into full-fledged faith in God and Jesus without some sort of "parachute," some assurance that you will have a safe landing. Where's the proof?

Some have been brought up in a family of faith, in a church where the Lord is clearly present, and been aware and sure of the gospel and of God's power for as long as they remember. That certainly isn't to say they are happy-go-lucky and carefree; as Christians every one of us has challenges and responsibilities to strengthen our faith and spread the Word. But others may constantly wrestle with the thought that atheism may be reality, that the Bible is irrelevant or "inaccurate," or that even if there is one single God that Christianity doesn't exactly have "it" all down pat. Even more have smaller doubts that a specific verse is no longer valid, that the kind of wholehearted discipleship described in the Bible isn't for all Christians, that a serious, personal relationship with God isn't possible for all Christians. All of those concerns can be scary for their victims, so how can we be so sure? How do we know that WE are right? I think the best medicine for such growing pains is Truth, plain and simple.

I'm certainly not an expert on the subject. I'm not a preacher, a Biblical scholar, or a Christian well-versed enough to spout out passages as they apply. But I can certainly share all the things that helped me understand the truth, the reality, and the never-ending validity of Christianity.

I can't cover all of that in one post. I could probably compile a big fat book of sources that show the proof of Christianity. I may even spend all week sharing, just to we can be reminded of how strong of a foundation we stand onl So let's just start with one guy we probably all recognize: Kirk Cameron... Or maybe Mike Seaver in your mind. A ha, maybe now you understand the pun in the title. Couldn't resist.

Kirk was an atheist until his late teenage years when one day he asked God to make himself apparent, if in fact He was real. Kirk has made a huge impact on American evangelism through his books, movies, and his ministry (The Way of the Master). From here, I will let you discover his resources on your own. It's probably more than you can cover in one day... Kirk has created endless resources for Christians. He's not the ultimate source, but he has created a lot of good material in my view. If you're not in the mood for an hour of web surfing, I challenge you to at least watch the clip from his movie, Fireproof.

I may end up writing another whole post on the movie (I'm just choosing my topics day-by-day, wherever He leads me), but after watching it, I was pleasantly surprised to discover that it's not just for troubled married couples wanting to the The 40 day Love Dare. The clip I'm sharing applies to every one of us... And boy o boy was it a huge light bulb for me. A huge, humbling, surprisingly simple light bulb. Watch it. You'll be glad you did.

I pray for each of you that you grow more assured in the Christian faith. Cause it's real, serious, provable, relevant, and the only way. Dive into discovering this reality.

Chapter 1 of Kirk's book, Still Growing

I hope you all share your reactions to the links and share what helped you understand the truth of Christianity. How did you know? What was your light bulb?

The Way of the Master Ministry  Full of great free tools and is a great tool itself for evaluating what being a Christian really means.

The Way of the Master on Youtube I particularly encourage you to watch the videos from the Rational Response debate with Kirk Cameron. It's a compilation of A LOT of videos, but it answers a lot of great questions like "Who created God?" It's definitely controversial and, at times, very challenging to not start to ask a million more questions. It probably won't answer all your questions, and certainly Kirk and Ray are not the ultimate deciders on the questions asked. However, they bring up good points and explain some concepts in a way that does seem to prove Christian principles.

May God Bless You All,
Emily Gray

Saturday, June 11, 2011

There was evening and there was morning- the first day.

I suppose this post is a Genesis of sorts. There's so much I want to address that I'm not exactly sure where to start. I guess an introduction from the editor is appropriate...

Name: Emily
Age: 19
Occupation: Student at UGA majoring in Math Education and minoring in Spanish
Religion: Christian (Methodist growing up but leaning toward Baptist lately)
Pets: Midnight, my sweet, old, rather portly cat
Favorite quote: Yesterday is already a dream and tomorrow only a vision, but today well-lived makes every yesterday a dream of happiness and every tomorrow a vision of hope. ~Sanskrit

My biggest weakness is also my greatest strength: my huge heart.

My mother instilled in me an open mind, unwavering faith in the power of prayer, the belief that angels are always watching over us, a love for the mountains and oceans, and the ability to cry tears of joy at the smallest thing.

My dad gave me his fighting spirit, protective instincts, belief in human rights and in holding others accountable, his sensitivity, loyalty to family, and strong work ethic.

But I guess my faith is the most logical focus for this post.

I grew up south of Atlanta and attended the same Methodist church until I was in Middle School. I wouldn't say I got an intense education in Bible stories and priciples, but I got the basics: God is almighty, omnipresent, omnipotent, and forgiving; Jesus was born by Virgin Mary and was the son of God, he came to Earth to teach us about the Father, and he died on the cross and ascended to forgive us of our sins (although for the life of me I could not understand why dying on a cross took away our sins). For a few years we didn't go to church except for Chistmas and Easter, and when I got to high school I started going to a youth group on my own to try to figure out... Well... Everything really. I wanted to fill the void I felt, learn what exactly Jesus preached, and what He wanted me to do.

Like most college students, I've discovered that college is a time when I discover who I am, what I believe, and how I can grow to become a better version of myself. The most important facet of my life has become my faith, though I wish it had always been my first priority. I met my boyfriend the very fist day of college, and he taught me so much about what it really means to be a Christian... And actually how to practice what He preached. It may surprise you that we don't even frequently have long, serious discussions about the Lord. It just goes to show how much all the little things can add up how much impact one small gesture has. Kindness and the smallest actions really do have a domino effect.. But the good kind! His parents are probably my greatest role models when it comes to faith and I've learned so much from them that I bet they don't realize. Their family sort of became my jumping off point for figuring things out for myself. As my Christian faith has developed, I have had so many lightbulbs flip on, and come across countless resources that have opened my eyes to new ideas. Sometimes I'll read a tweet or an article online, hear a song on the radio, or find a piece of scripture and just want to share with everyone. And now I've got my outlet! I'm creating this blog as my little way to shout from the mountaintop, and I hope you return the favor. I want my readers to become active members here; we can all learn from each other but only if we share our insight! As Christians, we never stop growing, and there's always more to learn, and I hope "Confessions of a College Christian" can help you in your never ending journey to know, understand, and love Christ.

I've also come to realize that every Christian has moments of weakness, daunting challenges (some temporary and others never-ending), questions that never seem to have a concrete correct answer, and stages of doubt when we need others to listen and lift us up. I want this blog to be a place where we can all share our inspirations and questions, as well as find support and security. I also want this to be an open forum free of ridicule and scorn, which can be tricky with religion. But that's exactly where the beauty lies in Christianity: we may not always agree with each other or get everything "right" but the body of Christ is strong, He is within each of us, and we can be forgiven of all our wrongs and transgressions.

I'm just going to ask 2 things of my readers
1. Give only constructive advice, answers, and responses.
2. Share whatever inspiring things you come across. We will all be better for it!

Thanks for taking the time to read this and come back frequently! Introduce yourself, post a random quote or link, and share the love.

I hope this can become your schedule-free small group where the doors are always open!

May God Bless You All,
Emily Gray