Radical Christianity

Radical: Taking Back your Faith from the American Dream. The title of the book alone steps on so many toes, and the pages ahead only get more painful and uncomfortable. David Platt is the author of the book and is the current senior pastor of McLean Bible Church located in the Washington, DC metro area. He has also previously served as the president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s International Mission Board. radicalFurthermore, he has and still is one of the great heroes of the faith; I am convicted, encouraged, and challenged by his messages. I heard so much about this particular book that I had to get my hands on it to see what all the buzz was about. I was not at all prepared for what I was about to read.

Radical does not waste its time introducing the subject of Christianity or the American dream. Instead, it dives straight to scrutinizing and inspecting Western Christianity. The author does this mainly by using Scripture but also by laying out his experience as a missionary in several countries around the world. The contrast is evident and hard to swallow at times when it comes to how oversees believers practice their faith, how they go about completing the Great Commission, and how they see Christ himself.

One of the stories he shares in the book that left a lasting impression on my life as a Christian was about what occurred during his time in China. After spending some time fellowshipping with the believers there, he went on to get some rest. As he tried to slip into slumber, he heard wailing, crying, and murmuring. In the pitch dark, the Chinese believers were gathered in prayer. David leaned in and asked one of them what on earth was happening and the response was that they loved and cared for American/Western believers so much that they were praying for God to strengthen them in their faith and help them persevere. The idea that a group of Chinese believers who have to meet in secret, despite possible danger, intercede on our behalf both warmed and stung my heart. They truly see us as their brothers and sisters, but I also fear that they know, in our comfort, in our cushioned chairs and our colorful stage lights, we’ve started to become too comfortable with the way that we live and have neglected the task at hand.

Platt stresses that the Gospel the Bible preaches is different from the one preached by the American dream. The life we settle for and the earthly things that we desire do not align with the word of God. Furthermore, Radical illustrates that there is a great need in the mission field, because so many are without Christ. If we truly are crazy enough to believe the claims of Christ, then we ought to live like it. We have to realize that denying ourselves daily and radically following Christ means to risk it all to go into all the nations and preach the Gospel.

The central message of the entire book can be summarized by the following quote:

The modern-day gospel says, ‘God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life. Therefore, follow these steps, and you can be saved.’ Meanwhile, the biblical gospel says, ‘You are an enemy of God, dead in your sin, and in your present state of rebellion, you are not even able to see that you need life, much less to cause yourself to come to life. Therefore, you are radically dependent on God to do something in your life that you could never do. (David Platt, Radical)

The church has been plagued by the prosperity Gospel for too long. It has ignored the true Gospel and sought the wealth, health, and comfort this world offers. God has been reduced to a genie who will attend to our wishes and commands as we see fit. We live life thinking that fulfillment is found in the degrees we accumulate, the jobs we secure, the estates we oversee, and the cars we own, yet nothing drains us more. We have made the Gospel about ourselves and our needs when the Gospel was never about us but the grace of God. Platt pleads the same truth to his audience and warns that we will not be able to stand or give an answer to the Lord when the day comes.

The book not only talks about the true calling of the Christian life, but it also points the reader to the plight of so many people around the world, while we indulge in materialism, consumerism, and the self-centered Gospel that seeks to get a hold of the next best thing for fulfillment. The Bible teaches us compassion and selfless giving; if we were to make small changes in our lives, maybe miss out on the newest iPhone and buy a lunch for the homeless around our community, it would open up the door to a greater change in our lives and the people around us. Taking small radical steps for the sake of God and others will eventually lead to a completely radical life altogether.

Reading this book was one of the best decisions I’ve made in my entire life. Not that the truth found in it was somehow hidden or that it could answer all my questions, instead, it simply pointed out the flaws in my philosophy, everything I thought my faith in Christ looked like and turned it up-side-down. It has radically changed the way that I thought I was going to live out my life, and I am forever thankful to the author for that change. Getting the chance to hear Platt speak at Hillcrest Baptist Church only amplified the message of his book for me.

At the end of the event, I spoke with him and told him about how I’ve decided to change all my plans in full surrender to the Lord and the great impact that he has on the younger generation. The excitement and joy he got from hearing about how he has helped change our lives was barely masked by the utter exhaustion the speech and conversations with countless other people had caused.

Risking everything for the sake of the Gospel and denying ourselves the pleasure that this world offers is not an easy thing to do. When we know that his grace is sufficient, however, the yoke does become easy and the burden light, and my absolute favorite quote from the book echoes the same message:

Radical obedience to Christ is not easy… It’s not comfort, not health, not wealth, and not prosperity in this world. Radical obedience to Christ risks losing all these things. But in the end, such risk finds its reward in Christ. And he is more than enough for us. (David Platt, 98)

Written by Kenean

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10 Tips to Survive and Thrive During Finals Week

Though finals week is often the college student’s worst nightmare, survival is possible! Here are ten tips to survive, and even thrive, during the most challenging part of the semester.

1. Make a study schedule (and stick to it!)

 Planning ahead of time and making a schedule will keep you from feeling overwhelmed and help you to avoid last minute cramming. To be honest, I’m a bit of an obsessive planner… I won’t even try to deny it. My flower printed Erin Condren planner is even color coded to the hour! Though hourly scheduling isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, I’ve always found it helpful to prioritize my to-do list in order to decide which things are the most important. After I’ve decided on the essentials, I often reserve blocks of time throughout my week devoted to accomplishing the specific tasks on my list. This trick has saved me from several nights of last minute cramming and helps me to devote an equal amount of time to preparation for each test.

2. Eat well

As a girl with a MAJOR sweet tooth, I know how tempting Braum’s and Sonic sound during those late night study sessions. However, the simple sugars in these treats only leave me hungrier and lacking energy when it’s needed the most. In order to function at my best during finals week, I try to fill my body with nourishing fuel.  Beef jerky, granola bars, nuts, and fruit are easy snack options (found in the Patriot Store) that support brain health and keep me full and focused while preparing for that upcoming exam.

3. Use your resources

There are so many free resources offered to help students survive and thrive during finals week. For instance, the University Writing Center (*cough, cough, shameless plug here) offers students free assistance with papers at any stage of the writing process. In addition to academic advice, many local churches open their doors to students during finals week, often providing free treats and a quiet study space. If you prefer to stay on campus, the new Coffeehouse, located next to the Union, is a great place to focus!

4. Minimize distractions

In order to overcome the temptation to scroll through Doug the Pug’s social media accounts while studying, I often put my phone in Do Not Disturb mode, or open the SelfControl app on my Mac. SelfControl is a free application that allows you to block certain websites for a period of time. Sorry Doug, finals week is no time for Pugs!

Also, make sure to choose a study space where you can actually focus. Seek out a quiet spot with comfortable seating and make sure to bring snacks and water with you. Rumbling tummies and parched throats are the worst distractions of all- trust me, this distance runner knows!

5. Take a break

After several solid hours of focus, I am in desperate need of a brain break! Seeking sympathy from my mom over the phone, swinging by the pond, or watching an episode of the Great British Baking Show helps me to regain my sanity and awards me the boost needed to reopen the textbook. These short breaks are essential to successful studying and remind me that there is life beyond finals week.

6. Get comfy

Finals week is my only chance to wear my owl onesie without judgment. I suggest pulling out your comfiest, coziest outfit and snuggling down in a quiet place with your textbooks. However, make sure that your finals week ensemble isn’t too comfortable, or you may end up dozing!

7. Exercise

Although exercise may be the last thing on your mind during finals week, this long distance runner can attest that exercise releases endorphins that improve mood and decrease stress. After sitting around all day, a few trips up and down the library stairs would be the perfect brain break. However, if you want more of a challenge, treadmills, weights, and stationary bicycles can be found inside of the university Fitness Center.

8. Put down the coffee

Take it easy on the energy drinks! Although coffee and Red Bull are sure to give a quick boost, too much caffeine can actually increase anxiety. Try green tea or…

9. GET SOME SLEEP

Although this one is difficult, do your best to avoid late night cramming. Trust me, you will not benefit from all-nighters. In fact, sleep deprivation even decreases concentration and leads to memory loss, headaches, and stress! Get some sleep, ideally six to eight hours.

10. Keep an eternal perspective

Although you understandably want to ace all of your finals, remember that you are not defined by test scores. As Christians, our identity is secure in Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross. This life is so temporary and each day is a gift from God! During finals week, remember to be grateful for the opportunity to receive an education and rejoice; no matter your grade, God is still sovereign and He is still working for our good.

Written by Leah

Why You Should Never Be a Writer

Writing is hard. Really hard. To an outsider, it might appear easy enough, but writers know that isn’t true. It takes years of careful practice and a million and one drafts to produce one complete novel, and don’t even get me started on trying to publish it. We all know that’s almost impossible. Writers spend hours and hours carefully crafting a single poem or story, only for it to never see the light of day. All of that goes to say, don’t become a writer; it’s not worth it.

It’s not worth the hours you’ll spend with your head in the clouds, dreaming about worlds and characters that don’t exist. You’ll go on imaginary adventures and live a thousand lives in the span of a single lifetime. The world around you will begin to change because of your new perspective. The more you write, the more you will see the beauty and intricacy of the world. Your mind will be opened to new ideas and perspectives, and you will begin to realize that God is using our lives to weave together billions of detailed and unique narratives that all interconnect into one long story that points to Him. So, don’t become a writer.

It’s not worth the rewarding feeling of writing something that you’re truly proud of, that unmatchable feeling of finally fulfilling the dream you’ve had for so long. When you finally get the perfect draft after dozens of discarded ones, you’ll feel more pride than you ever have before. Not to mention the feeling you get when something you wrote makes someone else smile, or laugh, or cry. A writer has the power to make people feel. To make them experience the world in a new way. That’s why you shouldn’t become a writer.

Most of all, it’s not worth the time you’ll spend pouring your soul out onto a page. When nothing in the world makes sense, sometimes all you’ll have is words. A pen and paper might be your only friends, the only way you can make the world make sense. You’ll amass dozens of journals and books filled with the thoughts, feelings, and experiences of times past, and you’ll get a nostalgic thrill from reading them. They can track your growth as a writer and as a person. Nothing compares to the realization that you aren’t the same person you were before. You wrote; you grew; you changed, and you overcame. All of the old giants have been conquered. Writing will purge all of your emotions until you have none left to give. So, don’t become a writer.

Writing will make you work harder than you have before. It will push you to the very edge of your creative limits. You will be challenged in new ways every day. There will be good moments and bad, but it will never stop being rewarding. Through writing, you will learn to think and to feel differently – more deeply. It will help you develop a writing community and hone your craft. Writing is hard, but it can be wonderful. So, obviously, don’t ever, ever become a writer.

Written by Taylor Hayden

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The Burial of Jesus

By the time Joseph made his way from Pilate’s palace to Golgotha, the crowds had dispersed. Most of the throngs of violent protesters and adoring followers left when the sky went dark earlier in the afternoon; those who had endured that bizarre experience scattered when the earthquake came.

Now there just seemed to be Romans milling around the crosses. Even the group of men and women who had followed Jesus so closely for the past two years were nowhere to be seen. Rumor had it that it was one of those 12 men who had betrayed their leader to the mob. Not that Joseph had any judgment to pass. After all, nobody knew he, too, was a disciple. At least, not yet; after what he was about to do, there would be no doubting his loyalties.

The mercenaries had already removed the bodies of the other criminals from their crosses; they would be thrown in mass graves and left to rot. Unless somebody intervened, Jesus’ body would meet the same fate. Even if the disciples hadn’t abandoned their Rabbi, Joseph knew the poor fishermen lacked the means to pay for a proper Jewish burial. Even Joseph, one of the wealthiest members of the Sanhedrin, could not pull together that kind of money on short notice. His personal tomb would have to suffice for his Master.

At the right cross, Joseph was startled to discover a familiar figure kneeling cautiously over the broken body of Jesus.

“Nicodemus?”

The Sanhedrin councilman looked up. He smiled. “Hello, Joseph. Have you come to do the same thing I’m here to do?”

Joseph scrambled to produce Pilate’s sealed letter releasing the body to him. “I have permission to lay him in my own tomb. It’s just across the garden. Roman guards have been ordered to help seal the cave and ensure nothing… happens.”

Nicodemus smiled again. “My friend, I’m not here to stop you.”

For the first time, Joseph noticed the loaded cart behind Nicodemus. Even over the stench of death he thought he could smell a hint of myrrh and aloe—spices used for Jewish burial.

A forgotten memory suddenly flashed to mind: one of the first times the Jewish council had attempted to arrest Jesus. When the Sanhedrin ridiculed the temple police for marveling at Jesus instead of putting him to death, only one member had risen to his defense. “Our law doesn’t judge a man before it hears from him and knows what he’s doing, does it?” Nicodemus had asked. Joseph felt shame to also remember that at the time he had been among those who mocked Nicodemus for his boldness and support of the Nazarene.

“I would appreciate your help,” Joseph admitted. Wordlessly, the two men began to adorn Jesus’ body in Joseph’s burial cloths and Nicodemus’ fragrances. Both men were rich, powerful scholars who could recite the Law from memory, but their hands fumbled with the material and clumsily spilled the expensive spices.

When they appeared to be finished, Joseph stepped back to evaluate their work. “Is it good enough?” he asked.

Nicodemus arched his brow. “Do you imagine that anything we do for him could ever be good enough?”

Together, the men gingerly laid Jesus on Nicodemus’ cart, and Joseph led the way to the tomb. “Nicodemus,” he inquired, “Did you ever speak to him personally? I never did myself…I was too afraid.”

“Once,” Nicodemus answered. “I went to him at night, in secret. I, too, was afraid.”

Joseph was impressed. “You had a private audience with Jesus?”

“An audience!” Nicodemus scoffed. “I got a strong personal lecturing from the Rabbi. I came to him a prideful fool, and I left still a fool, but a humble one for sure. He told me that I had to be born again—not of the flesh but of the Spirit—that because Yahweh so dearly loves the world, he gave his son, and those who believe in the son will live forever.” He shook his head. “I was a fool, I tell you.”

Live forever? Joseph glanced down at the lifeless form in the cart. If only Jesus had lived forever! “You must have thought he was crazy,” he said to Nicodemus.

The man plucked a purple iris from along the path and tucked it in his cloak. “That’s what I wanted to believe. I wanted him to be crazy so that I might be sane, so that the fabric of my life would not unravel at the seams. Everything he taught runs against the current of the Sanhedrin’s teachings, yet it was in being swept up by his river of truth that I really was born of the Spirit. No, Joseph, I knew from the day I spoke with him that Jesus was not crazy, and it terrified me more than the fear of others.”

Joseph could relate. He recalled the moment he first felt a stirring within his soul, a flicker of light and hope that told him without a doubt that Jesus of Nazareth was not a blasphemer. And as beautiful as it was, it had terrified him, too.

“This must be your tomb,” Nicodemus observed, “unless Pilate sends his personal guard to pay respects to all the dead.”

Snapping out of his thoughts, Joseph realized his most personal experience with Jesus had already come to an end. They had arrived at the tomb, and the Romans were waiting to seal the entrance.

He and Nicodemus lifted their Rabbi from the cart and took him inside. Laying the body on the cold stone gave Joseph an indescribable feeling in the pit of his stomach. He was grateful to have a fellow disciple at his side. “Do you really believe he was God?” Joseph intended the question to be personal but found himself speaking the words aloud.

Nicodemus removed the iris from his cloak and laid it down—not on Jesus’ body as would be proper tribute—but next to his hand, as if he thought the Rabbi might like to pick it up and smell it. “Do I believe he was God?” Nicodemus smiled for the third time that night, and even in the dimly lit tomb, the joy on his face was radiant. “Jesus is God.”

Written by Savanna

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Spiritual Spring Cleaning

Fresh flowers blooming on the side of the road; a cool breeze ensuring that by the time you get to class, you’re a disheveled mess; and a symphony of sniffles from seasonal allergies. Sound familiar? Yup, everyone’s favorite time of year: spring. We’re almost there, folks, and despite the negatives that come with the changing seasons, spring is a good thing. In literature, springtime usually represents rebirth. In life, we associate it with the birth of cute baby animals and spring cleaning. So, what’s the connection between all of these things? Newness. Spring is a time for fresh starts and new beginnings. However, it’s not just our messy houses that need a seasonal revamp. Sometimes we forget that our spiritual lives need one, too.

I’m sure we are all familiar with the feeling of having a dry spell in our spiritual lives. Things get busy, the nights get later, and time alone with God gets put on the back burner. Sooner or later, we realize we can’t remember the last time we earnestly prayed or engaged in a personal Bible study. More than that, we realize our fire for God has dwindled to a few smoking embers. The good news is, it’s not too hard to stoke the fire and get the flames blazing again.

Recently, I fell into one of these slumps, and when I realized it was talking a toll on my life, I did some research and worked on getting my relationship with God back on track. Now, to save you from the burden of having to go through the whole process yourself, I’m going to share some of what I learned from that experience with you.

Getting a Bible study routine down is one of the most important parts of maintaining a healthy and growing spiritual life. It can be hard to carve out time in a busy day, so I usually wake up a bit early to do it in the morning. However, if that’s not an option for you, pick a time in the day when you can sit down alone and dedicate time to God. The key is to stick to your guns and not let anything else take over that time slot. Finding a good study to do can be another good way to kick start your study time. While it’s also important to learn how to navigate the Word on your own, a Bible study program or book can help you get started or be a nice change in your routine now and again, before you go off on your own. A couple of good books I can recommend are Mark Batterson’s Draw the Circle: The 40 Day Prayer Challenge and A Modern Girl’s Guide to Bible Study by Jen Hatmaker. Both are helpful for establishing good habits in your spiritual study time.

Another trick I have found that helps strengthen my spiritual life is turning to God in prayer the moment that anything gets tough. I’ve had a lot of drama come up in my life lately, and I’ve begun to train my brain to immediately go to God in prayer as soon as I feel myself getting frustrated or run-down. I will be the first to admit that I am still far from being as patient as I should be, but it has definitely helped me cope with struggles better, and it has made me rely on God more than I ever have. If I can turn to Him in even the most difficult moments, it makes it easier to keep up my faith in the good times as well.

I am by no means an expert on spiritual matters. I’m just beginning to try to figure it all out for myself, and I will probably spend the rest of my life doing so, but hopefully some of my experiences will give you inspiration. The most important thing I think I’ve learned in recent months is that it’s never too late to get right with God. He is always there for you, waiting patiently. As it says in Romans 8:38-39, “For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers,  nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Even if you feel like your spiritual life isn’t as rich or deep as your peers, remember that it doesn’t matter to God – He just wants you.

Written by Taylor Hayden

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Let Love Overflow

Most of my peers are shocked to learn that Valentine’s Day is my FAVORITE HOLIDAY.

Yep, you heard right.

I have never been in a relationship and Valentine’s Day is still my favorite holiday (besides Christmas and Easter, of course, because nothing can compete with the Lord’s birth and resurrection!)

Sadly, very few millennials share my sentiments as Valentine’s Day has quite the negative reputation these days.

Notorious for its overpriced flowers, sugar comas, and mushy couples (barf), Valentine’s Day has evolved into a single person’s worst nightmare. Originally intended as a celebration of genuine love, Valentine’s Day instead prioritizes materialism and seems to promote self-pity and loneliness. Sadly, due to misguided quests for love and identity, the holiday reeks with the sorrow of unmet expectations.

However, it hasn’t always been this way.


Remember Kindergarten? On the morning of St. Valentine’s Day, little boys and girls alike would burst into classrooms, dazzled by explosions of pink and red paper that plastered every wall. Festive bows crowned every braid, and all the little eyes were filled with excitement and hope for the celebration ahead. The classroom floor was soon littered with stickers and colorful clippings as perfect Valentine’s hearts were trimmed and decorated in order to share love with those who mattered the most (mom and dad, of course!).

As morning crafting was pushed aside, a mass distribution of valentines occurred! Students flocked to the festively renovated tissue boxes as myriads of colorful tattoos, funny puns, and yummy treats were dropped into each box. In elementary school, none were excluded from Valentine’s festivities! Even at the young age of six, we were taught to share love on Valentine’s Day by blessing and sharing what we had with those around us.

Grins spread like wildfire as students opened their Valentine’s mailboxes, ecstatically ripping apart the flimsy cardboard to exploit the wealth of goodness inside. Following mass candy consumption, teachers quickly sped through Valentine’s themed lessons before the dreaded sugar crash occurred. Thankfully, several candy conversation hearts were all that was needed to increase midday student morale and motivation.


Many of us would agree that Valentine’s Day was a highlight in elementary school, a celebration we cherished, as evidenced by our ability to fondly recall the experience today.

What has changed? Why doesn’t Valentine’s Day provide this same joy today?

NEWSFLASH: What you celebrate is up to you!

Valentine’s Day is not an exclusive holiday for couples or kindergarteners because love is not exclusive to couples and kindergarteners. That’s what the day is about, remember?

In fact, 1 John 4:7 explains that “love is from God,” and “God is love.” Whether you have a Valentine or not this year, know that you are cherished and completely loved by the only person who truly matters.

In fact, God loved us so much that He “sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another” (1 John 4:9-10).

Friends, take a moment to reflect on this truth.

When humanity revolted and rejected God, He responded by sending His only Son to suffer on the cross to atone for our sins. God pursued and forgave us, even though we disobeyed Him. Unconditional and all encompassing, this must be true love!

Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another” (1 John 4:11).

In fact, we should be so full of God’s love that it naturally overflows onto others.

Regardless of whether you are currently single or in a relationship, I challenge you to turn outward this Valentine’s Day and consider how you can extend Christ’s love by blessing and encouraging those around you. Perhaps this means babysitting for that single mom, baking cookies for your professor, sending your mom flowers, or organizing a game night for friends. Instead of embracing a ‘woe is me’ attitude, take the initiative this Valentine’s Day to share truth and encouragement with those around you.

Though you may not be an elementary education major like me who finds immense joy in baking, flowers, and all things chocolate, I encourage you to use your unique gifts to bless others and share truth this Valentine’s Day. Though the day looks different for everyone, keep in mind the reason for the Valentines season and let His love overflow!

kindergarten valentines day

Written by Leah

Image credits: Header image, Kindergarten Valentine’s Day

Why Do We Love Movies that Make Us Cry?

Why is it that we humans willingly submit ourselves to the pain of a sad story? We spend hours watching movies like A Walk to Remember and reading books like The Fault in our Stars, even if we already know the plot is going to end badly. Moreover, tragic characters themselves seem to have a certain appeal. We find ourselves secretly rooting for their redemption. Many times I have caught myself longing for the kind of story line that I have just mentioned, and it got me to thinking, “why?”

Tragedy has a special power over us. Writers create these stories because they know they can influence our emotions in ways that comedy may not. The most common tropes of tragedy – the death of a loved one, the loss of a relationship, or the character that is beyond salvation – leave every fiber of our being screaming out for something better, something happier. Because we are created in the image of Christ, the idea of perfection is ingrained deep within us. Our world is fallen, but our souls cry out for more. When we see something sad, we subconsciously know it isn’t meant to be like that; it’s a result of the eternal striving for heaven that God created in us. The typical reaction to tragedy is twofold: usually, we cry or get upset first because the inherent wrongness of the situation irks us to the core. Then, we seek change. We plot how the story might have turned out if the characters had just done this or that instead. For this same reason, when we do watch happy movies or read happy books, we feel a sense of satisfaction when the story has a happy ending.

The wonderful thing about literature, including tragedy, is that it mirrors the real world. However, in the real world, we do actually have some power to create change. There are some things that we simply cannot conquer in our fallen world, like death and sin, but we, unlike fictional characters, have the freedom of choice. We can learn from the mistakes made by these characters so that we don’t have to make them ourselves. This is why I think we continually submit ourselves to tragedy: it can inspire change. When a writer brings a problem to our attention that leaves tears running down our faces, we can and should do something about it.

Written by Taylor Hayden

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