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Student Reflection: Dog Days of the School Year

by Sam Fletcher

My struggle throughout each and every semester has always been the mundane and the consistency of sixteen weeks out of the year. It can be slow and frustrating, and sometimes I would just like to be done. If every student who is in school is being honest, then they would agree that school is not the highlight of their day or week or month.  It is not for me. It can really be taxing! School is about character and building on the knowledge that you have as a student.  Every great leader is a good student. The character aspect of school is about doing what you do not want to do.  

If I’m being honest, school has never been a particularly favorite hobby but it has taught me so much about discipline, diligence, and excellence. As a millennial, I tend to focus on my feelings. I do not want to do what makes me feel bad. School is that thing! School has provided me an opportunity to grow in discipline.  The hardest thing about school is that it never goes away when you are in it! When one week is done, here comes another the next. School has provided an opportunity for me to grow in diligence, in that, when I get to it early, the easier it is!

School can be frustrating, but I guess, it is on purpose!

Sam is a 3rd-year Bachelor of Arts in Christian Leadership student, and a graduate of theExperience internship. He currently serves as the Student Ministries Assistant for Manna Church, Fayetteville/Fort Bragg.

Devotional: Jessica Fletcher

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Jessica Fletcher is a GCD alumna, who earned her Bachelor of Arts in Divinity degree in the Fall of 2017.

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Scene: Africa. Subjects: wild dogs and wildebeests. The only way the wild dogs have the advantage is if the wildebeest run. However, if the wildebeests have the courage to stop running and stand their ground, the wild dogs are powerless. If you desire a more detailed and graphic demonstration of this truth, go watch The Hunt on Netflix.

Everyone is made on purpose and for a purpose, and that purpose ALWAYS involves others.

Here’s the big question: are you surrounded by people who are going to have the courage to stop in the face of danger and stand with you? Are you running alone? A very important lesson can be learned from the wildebeests. When we stop running and stand together, the enemy is powerless. We are not meant to do life alone. We need to surround ourselves with people who have the faith to stand and the courage to stop running. When we stand together, we halt the enemy.

Hebrews 4:11 (ESV) – “Let us therefore strive to enter that rest, so that no one may fall by the same sort of disobedience.”

Two words spring off the page: “us” and “no one.” Earlier in Hebrews 4, the author of Hebrews references the moment the nation of Israel fell prey to the fears of the faithless reporters.

Hebrews 4:2 (ESV) – “For good news came to us just as to them, but the message they heard did not benefit them, because they were not united by faith with those who listened.”

With whom are you united?

Now, let’s take a moment to look at the word REST.

In this passage, “rest” is the Greek word katapausis, used in three different ways. (1) Rest as in the way we would use the peace of God, (2) rest as in the Promised Land, and (3) rest as in how God rested on the seventh day after his work was completed.

Here’s the truth: being out of rest is being out of faith.

Hebrews 4:1 (ESV) – “…while the promise of entering his rest still stands…” He has promised, we need to enter. God has promised peace. God has a promised land for you. God has work for you to complete. Let us enter in; let us enter together.

Here are three action steps:

  1. Surround yourself with faith-filled people. Reach for the fearful ones, don’t surround yourself with them.
  2. Practice listening today (Heb. 4:7, ESV)
  3. Choose to remove the words ALWAYS and NEVER in reference to yourself and those around you. Those are eternal words, only God is eternal.

“Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.” (Eph. 4:15-16, ESV)

Church, let us be found standing together, striving together to enter into His rest.

Student Devotional: Pursuing Your Calling

Pastor Joshua Clarke shares his thoughts on pursuing your calling. Josh is a Master of Divinity online student with GCD, and his family has been instrumental in planting Manna Church, Colorado Springs.

One of the most exciting discoveries you make after deciding to follow Jesus is that you are uniquely called by God for a specific purpose to make an eternal difference. This is such a profound discovery that you immediately revert back to your childhood state and start to dream again about who you could be and what God has called you to do.

When it comes to pursuing that calling, I think the most significant thing to do is to never stop dreaming. To dream big is to have faith in who God is and what He is capable of. God desires us to be full of faith because otherwise we put our infinitely powerful, knowing, and loving God in a box. When we lack faith, we say “no” FOR God before he even gets the chance to bless us and use us. However, to constantly be living out your calling, there is a balance that you must find in dreaming big. I have always been a big dreamer, but sometimes I get so caught up in those dreams that I forget to make the most of where God has me now. This is the tension that we must live in; dreaming big for the future and being obedient to God right now. This obedience is ultimately what leads to the fulfillment of a dream. To pursue your calling is to be obedient to God in this moment. To pursue your calling is to pursue God. If you continue to pursue God, you will never be walking outside of your calling.

A year and a half ago I came to a cross roads. I knew that I was called to multiply God’s Kingdom through the local church, and I could either do that by staying where I was in Fayetteville and investing in that community or I could be a part of starting Manna Church in Colorado Springs. The question was not, “which makes the most sense” or “which one do I like most.” The question was simply “how can I be obedient to God right now?” The answer to the right question ended up being the illogical answer: to move my family across the country to be a part of starting a church. God’s dreams for me ended up being greater than anything I could think up. Since we have been out here, I have been able to be a part of an amazing church plant with unprecedented growth and Kingdom impact, and my family has experienced more blessings than I would have ever thought possible in such a short time. Pursing your calling is simply being obedient to God. There is so much joy in being exactly where God desires you to be.

Adam Yow Devotional

Student-ministry-intern

I am the currently a first year intern in theExperience College internship. I’m quite a simple homie. I love Jesus. I really think the biggest fight for number one in my life is Jesus and food. I am proud to confess I also love girlie drinks and I don’t care who knows about it. That’s all.

What does God REALLY want?

     Have you ever wondered what God wants the most? Have you ever just taken time out of your day to think, “Hmmm, what is the number one thing God wants from my life?” I think people, despite being a Jesus-follower or not, have asked themselves a question similar to the one I am portraying today. If you are a human being, you have a purpose, and, ultimately, that is what your life is searching for.

     Speaking from my own Jesus-following perspective, my view on what God really wants has gotten skewed through time and experience. When the question of what God really wants is brought to my attention, my natural instinct is to think of some form of work – like reading my Bible more, praying for my family, or sharing the gospel with non-Jesus followers; but I think I lead myself away from what the truth really is. Though doing things like doing ministry is good, and we should be incorporating these disciplines in our relationship with Jesus. God has been teaching me that those are not His priority for my life.

     As I have been reading through the Old Testament, specifically the Samuel’s, King’s, and Chronicle’s, God has been radically shifting my mind when I think about the main purpose of my life. Reflecting on the lives of those kings and prophets who ended well, I come to find the a common theme in all of their lives. Though they did amazing things for God, they all gave up their lives to God. Their primary focus was to constantly place their lives on the altar.

     Fast forward to Jesus, one day Jesus was asked, “What is the greatest commandment?” Essentially what is happening is someone is saying, “Yo Jesus, what does God really want? What is the most important thing to Him?” The golden question, right? And his response totally blows me away. Jesus simply says, “Just love God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind. Yeah, that’s what my Pops wants the most from humanity.

     WHAT? This changes everything! Jesus Himself tells us that God is looking for people who will enter into relationship with Him, not just another religious way of living. At times we make our relationship all about “what do I need to do” with all these works in mind, but Jesus suggests  that we should consider “what do I need to give up.” You see, I have come to discover that God is not looking for those who will just do all the right things, but He is looking for those who will give Him their heart. And it is from a heart that is truly surrendered that real life change can be produced personally and publicly.

     So I encourage you, if you are in a relationship with Jesus and seek to grow closer to him, don’t start off with thinking about what you should do to fix the issue, but go to Jesus with your whole heart – the good, the broken, and the ugly – and give it up! And that is where I believe you will experience the most satisfying peace and freedom. Brothers and sisters, the best days are still ahead of us. Give up your hearts, so you do not miss out on them.

Nakiya Smith Devotional

     My name is Nakiya Smith and I am on staff here at GCD wearing many hats. My favorite has been being a TA to the Destiny and Calling class (CLG 101).  Don’t tell my previous math and physics professors, but I love problem solving, other people’s problems that is. My most favorite thing in the world is being an Auntie.  When I’m not at GCD I enjoy sampling food from various countries, working out and Latin dancing.

     This morning I went walking for exercise. When walking I like to keep my heart rate up. So once I get going, it’s unconventional for me to stop until my cool down. As I was walking on the sidewalk, I came across a large earth worm. In biology we were taught that earthworms help fertilize the ground. As they slither in the earth, they are helping fertilize and move around the soil. Earthworms also cannot see.They simply have light receptors. So I was taught that when an earthworm is on the sidewalk, one should place it back it back in the grass. Well, there’s no way I’m actually touching a living earth worm. So I decided to try to nudge the earthworm back into the grassy area. This proved to be more difficult than expected and quite time consuming. I had to nudge and nudge and the worm kept curling up and not wanting to move. Two minutes later, I finally got the earthworm into the grass. My heart rate was down, but I felt I did a good service to the yard of the neighbor.

     As I kept walking I thought about how this experience reminds me of the staff here at GCD. I enjoy seeing faculty and staff nudge and nudge at and nurture the students, not only because we care, but because we see the potential of all of our students and know that you will play an important role in advancing The Kingdom. We are here to happily guide our students to good soil. This also reminds me of myself. I too have been an earthworm. Pretty lost, but following the Light. I have yet to receive hand written instructions on how to go through my day and which decisions to make, however I am reminded in Romans 15:4: For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through the endurance taught in the Scriptures and the encouragement they provide we might have hope. I am reminded that I have scriptures that can nudge me through my dark and unsure times. I am also grateful that I too have had individuals (figuratively and literally) nudge me along my Christian walk to ensure I am staying in good soil.

     Romans 15:1,2: We who are strong ought to bear with the failings of the weak and not to please ourselves. 2 Each of us should please our neighbors for their good, to build them up.

Be great!

Nakiya Smith

Adam Terry Devotional

   Adam Terry is a first year student at Grace College of Divinity. He is currently an Experience Intern at Manna Church. He He enjoys ballroom dancing and philosophical debates. He is currently spending his time at GCD seeking God and redeveloping a foundation of faith.

   Do you go the extra mile? I know this is usually the example that Christ used for us when other people make demands of us. That is not today’s focus though. Serving and loving people is important, but the greatest commandment is to love God with all your heart.

   Love has no limits. What does our love for God actually look like though? Most of us as Christians have a devotional life where we spend time with God. Love is shown through sacrifice. How much do we really sacrifice for God out of love? Honestly, when I think of Christians sacrificing for God it is because we have to. We can set aside a little time for God in the morning or evening, but have I limited my love for God?

  David was a man who loved God with a reckless abandon. When I look at David’s life I see him spending time with God, but I do not see him setting limits on his relationship with God. David goes above and beyond to please God. David does not just go the extra mile, David is determined to run to God until he reaches him. We should chase God without holding back!  

   I believe that many of us think about our relationship with God in a box. What do I have to do today to not lose my blessings and fall away? We should wake up and think, how can I please my heavenly Father today? When I start to think that way, new ideas of serving, loving, and worshipping fill my mind. My motivation to have devotions is my love for the Father. Devotions are a means to an end they are not the end. If I am going to worship God to the best of my ability I cannot put restraints on how much time and energy I am going to spend on Him. Loving God is not stopping at the extra mile. Loving God is the endless journey with Him into eternity.

Belle Szalkowski Devotional

 

Belle Szalkowski Devotional

Student Devotional

     Have you ever felt completely and utterly out of your depth? Like you are grasping for air and you can’t seem to get your head above water? Finally you wade into shore and you can breathe free and clear again. You look back at the water and realize that no matter how hard it was, you survived. You feel invigorated, you made it! You’ve accomplished something huge by just surviving and smiling! This has been my relationship with God through my life. One of my favorite verses that I keep coming back to is:

Psalm 13:6 I will sing the LORD’s praise, for He has been good to me.”

     I have spent many years of my life simply trying to keep my head above water. College is overwhelming. I’ve had multiple exhausting injuries, and serving in ministry can be draining. It is through God’s grace that I’ve made it as far as I am in life. The reason I keep going back to this verse is because no matter what point of my life I am in it applies. If I am drowning in schoolwork I can still praise God for blessing me with an education. If I am overwhelmed with my ministry work I can praise God for giving me a chance to share His glory.

     I say all this because I have learned that praising God even in the midst of struggle is the best lesson I’ve learned. Even when I was homeless I thought of this verse and that God, no matter my circumstances has been good to me and is worthy of my praise.

     I challenge you to meditate over this. If you truly believe God is good, then doesn’t He deserve our praise even when things aren’t going our way? Even if you feel that you are drowning, God has been good to you and is worthy to be praised.

 

 

Echo Montoya Devotional

 

Echo Montoya Devotional


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     Psalm 23

Today I will be sharing about Psalm 23, some people call it a classic that all church goers must know. All I know is, that once I truly understood this verse it changed my life! I just wanted to share with you what I have learned through studying this chapter almost my whole life as a Christian.

Psalm 23

“The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
    He makes me lie down in green pastures.
He leads me beside still waters.
    He restores my soul.
He leads me in paths of righteousness
 for his name’s sake. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
 I will fear no evil,
for you are with me; your rod and your staff,
     they comfort me.You prepare a table before me
 in the presence of my enemies;
you anoint my head with     oil; my cup overflows.Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
    all the days of my life,
and I shall        dwell in the house of the Lord
 forever.”
The starting verse of Psalm 23 is such a beautiful reminder that as Christians, we will always have provision through Christ. “The Lord is my  Shepherd, I shall not want.”
After a reminder about the Lord’s provision; the verse going into talking about how God leads us for our good. “He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters.” Not only does He calm us but He leads us there. The third verse says, “He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for His names sake.” A reminder to us that He is the only one who can truly bring back to life our soul. It is nothing in us, but God himself and who He is.
“Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.” The verse starts out my saying God protects us from evil. When the writing says ‘Valley of the shadow of death.’ It means that through the lowest of lows God is walking right there with you. Many people get scared or worried when they hear ‘rod and staff’ but the Shepard has both for a purpose. The rod is not to beat the sheep, but to protect when wolves or bears came near. The staff is for guidance, another example of God leading our steps. Imagine the last part of the verse saying: ‘your protection and guidance, they comfort me.’ What a beautiful image God is giving to us! “You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.” The beginning part speaks on how God blesses us abundantly. How even when my enemies are near He wants me, and He wants me front and center. He anoints us with oil as a sign of promotion in His eyes. What a powerful thing to even be seen if even a little bit worthy to God! For him though, to anoint us with oil, to the point where our cups overflow! What a powerful picture!
 “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life; and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.” If you choose to trust Him, these promises prevail. Know that God wants to bless us! Sometimes it is as easy as recognizing that He wants to do this for us, He never had to.

Devotional by Senior Norica Vernon

 

Devotional by Senior Norica Vernon

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             This is Norica Vernon’s devotional. She was born and raised on the island of Jamaica but currently calls North Carolina home. She is a US Army reservist, a mother, a senior at Grace College of Divinity and an active volunteer who devotes her free time to serving the Lord, whenever possible.

The one thing I’ve come to know and understand after more than 10 years in the Army is assignments. My first job as a reassignment clerk was to issue orders for soldiers and ensured that they were properly distributed. A TCS is a temporary change of station also known as a deployment. These were short intense assignments. You stayed where you were but left and came back. A PCS is a permanent change of station, a permanent assignment. These were short or long but you were gone from where you were last not knowing if you were to return there or not. Coming to Fort Bragg I knew it was my last active duty assignment. I felt it, I knew it deep within me and that was 5 years ago. The Holy Spirit told me so.

As Christians we are always on assignment not necessarily places but people. In the Great Commission, Jesus issued our orders. Some assignments are temporary could be a few minutes, months or even few years. Other assignments are permanent these are the people God places in our lives to always intercede for or for us to make a difference in their lives. In the Army we don’t always choose or like our assignments. It is the same when God gives us our orders, we don’t always like or choose the assignments but we have to follow them. And when God gives us an assignment, there is no rejecting or deleting it. I’ve been on probably my hardest assignment to date for a while now and I’ve wanted God to amend or delete it but it’s permanent, so I am going to make the most of it. I encourage you to prayerfully seek God about your assignment and ask Him to give you what you need to make the most of it. After all He did say He would be with you always and nothing can top that.

Be Blessed,

Norica