10 Tips for Coping with Finals Stress

Finals are upon us, which means as a student you’re probably experiencing an increased level of stress trying to wrap up your projects and study for your exams. While increased levels of stress are normal this time of year, we have put together some strategies you can use to decrease the stress that studying and test-taking can cause, as well as some tips for coping with the stress that you may experience.

  1. Pray. There is power in prayer. Now, prayer isn’t a cop-out. Staying up all night to play video games and asking God to help you do well on your final the next day probably isn’t going to work. But if you put in the work of studying, and ask God to help you remember what you studied and to calm your nerves, He will help. Start with prayer. It makes everything else go better.
  2. Take a breath. Finals can be overwhelming, especially when you allow your brain to run 100 miles an hour. It seems simple, but a few deep breathes can do wonders for slowing down your mind and calming your nerves.
  3. Make a list. Write down everything you need to do—studying, laundry, sleep, papers to write—and cross items off when you’ve accomplished them. Sometimes just having the overall view of everything you need to do can help alleviate your stress. Plus, you’re less likely to forget an assignment when it’s written down.
  4. Create a study schedule. There will be some exams you need extra time to study for, and others you won’t need to study nearly as much. Make a schedule of your week, when you can study, when you need to sleep and eat, and plug in what exam you need to study for. It will help you feel less overwhelmed.
  5. Get some sleep. Contrary to popular belief, pulling an all-nighter will NOT help you do better on your exam. When you’re tired and run down, your brain doesn’t function at full capacity—meaning you’re going into the exam with less brain power, and are likely to do worse on the exam. Get your sleep. You’ll do better.
  6. Eat healthy. Cans of energy drinks, junk food, and late night pizza won’t fuel your brain, let alone your body. Grab some healthy snacks—fruit, veggies, whole grain crackers. The better you eat, the better you will feel, and the more energy you can put towards remembering everything you’re studying.
  7. Limit your time on social media. Checking updates on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and responding to all those SnapChats of your friends’ stressed out faces can be fun, but if you’re not careful, you can waste hours on social media. Limit your time on the internet during finals and put it towards studying.
  8. Exercise. Taking 30 minutes out of your day to get in some exercise will help improve blood flow to your brain and make you more alert and remember more of what you’re studying. It’s not a huge time investment, but can reap a huge reward!
  9. Do something fun. One hour out of your day won’t kill your grades. Go do something fun. Read a book. Go for a walk. Play a video game. Go out to eat with your friends. It’s a great way to reduce stress and get your mind off of what needs to be done. It may even give you a fresh perspective on that subject you’re studying.
  10. If all else fails, yell! That’s right, I said yell. There’s something incredibly relieving in letting out a good ol’ fashioned yell. It will relieve your stress, make you feel like a weight has been lifted off, and if you time it just right, you may cause your roommate to jump…giving you both a good laugh. Disclaimer: don’t yell in the library. They may frown upon that.

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The Names of God

I was reading through the Old Testament this past week and I found a Scripture that caught my eye. I was gearing up for Christmas, so I had sought out some old favorite Scriptures in the Old Testament that, I believe, point forward to the coming of Christ. Isaiah has a lot to say about Christ, and so naturally that book was the first one that I turned to. In Isaiah 9:6, it reads:

“For to us a child is born,
To us a son is given,
And the government will be on His shoulders.
And he will be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”

This verse is usually used to connect the Old Testament to the New through Christ. I made a mental note of this and almost turned away when the names of God at the end of the verse caught my attention. These four names are given to Christ, and yet I had only ever acknowledged them – I had never consciously thought about what they meant.

As Wonderful Counselor, Christ offers guidance and direction to our lives. He is ready and willing to show us His plan and how to prosper, if we will only seek Him. His advice is extraordinary, it is astounding, and it is full of Him. When we need it, He simply listens to our cries. He is our Wonderful Counselor.

As Mighty God, Christ saves us from disaster and fends off our enemies. He is all-powerful and guards us on all sides. He will protect you from the things that seek to destroy you and He will lift you up when times are hard. He hears your crying during times of trouble and sweeps in like a mighty wave to save you. He is our Mighty god.

As Everlasting Father, Christ is always with us. Even when we cannot feel Him, He is still by our side. He never leaves, He never falters, He never fails. He is faithful, and is always ready for us. He existed before us and promises to take us into forever with Him. He is our Everlasting Father.

Finally, as Prince of Peace, Christ calms our hearts and minds. When our minds are tossed by the busy-ness of the world, He brings us rest. When our hearts are torn and mangled by the ones we love, He grants us healing. In the stormiest of days, He whispers peace into our souls. He is our Prince of Peace.

As Christmas approaches, remember who Christ is. Remember who He is to you now, and all that He can, and wants, to be. He came into this world to save you. And you can call Him Marvelous Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, and Prince of Peace.

With You

This past weekend as my girlfriend and I were leaving church for the 45 minute drive to Monmouth, a warning came over the radio. There were tornado watches in our county as well as all of the counties surrounding ours. She asked if we should turn back. Looking out the window, however, I noticed a rainbow in a blue sky. “Let’s keep going, but take a moment to remember God’s promise.” We continued.

Before long we heard another radio broadcast, this time informing us that there had been a tornado touchdown leaving massive destruction in its wake. After hearing this, we decided to pray for those affected by the damage. Yet before we could even finish our prayers the clouds opened and we found ourselves driving through blinding rain, hail, lightning, and winds. A semi was forced off the road. The car was only moving 20mph in a 65mph zone. We rounded a corner and found a truck completely engulfed in flames. My girlfriend started praying frantically for God to get us to Monmouth safely. The radio had no reception. We didn’t know what weather was still coming. We didn’t know how safe we were. The rainbow we had seen, the proof of God’s promise, seemed like the farthest thing away at that moment.

And then, for just a moment, the radio broke through. Love & the Outcome’s song “He Is With Us” come flowing through the speakers, but only long enough to get a few lines through. But for those few seconds the radio blasted the lyrics, “He is with us, He is with us – Always, Always, He is with us, He is with us, Our God is with us.” And then I started laughing.

I wasn’t laughing because I had finally snapped. The storm had not made me crack up in a fearful panic. I was laughing for joy – joy that our God was with us. He had heard our prayers. Though we were frightened and unsure about the future, God came down and whispered through the radio, “I Am with you.”

In the darkest, scariest moments of life, God is there. He does not leave when the road is tough or the path is hard to see. When the rain comes, and calamity strikes, God remains steadfast. Though the winds blow against you, and destruction looms on every side, God stands by your side. Do not get so caught up in the chaos of the moment that you forget about the peace that God offers.

It can be hard to find it. The wind and rain did not make it easy to hear past the radio static. The lightning and fire did not make it simple to stay calm. But when you put your hope in God’s hands and trust Him, He will rush in to deliver you. And, true to His promise, He will be with you until the end of the age.

Read it for yourself: Matthew 28:16-20, Genesis 9:8-17, Psalm 139

There I Am

This past weekend the students from Ignite Monmouth attended an Encounter Retreat in the hopes of encountering God. There were speaking sessions focused on the fact that God is enough for our lives. There was a prayer workshop to train students how to pray publicly. There were nights full of all-out worship that left us with sore throats the next morning. And there were encounters with God.

Normally on these retreats, students experience God in several ways. They might feel His presence during worship, and find the strength to raise their hands to the heavens. Others might experience the power of God through the communal prayer they experience. Still more might hear the gentle whispers of God during the time of silence on Saturday. But this time, God manifested in a new way.

On this retreat, God made Himself known through us. Students began to open up about past hurts and addictions, and when they did, their chains were broken. Students who had been dealing with depression suddenly found themselves with a renewed desire for Christ. Others who had been stuck in addictions for months found support amongst friends. Even more found that with the support of the group, the chains that bound them to past pains were broken, and forgiveness was able to rush in. Truly this was how God appeared this weekend.

For Jesus told us that, “where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.” That was never truer than on this retreat. For where Jesus is, there is healing for the hurting, and forgiveness finally became a possibility for many. When Jesus shows up, there is freedom for the captives, and addictions that have plagued some for years suddenly paled in comparison to the freedom that Christ offers. In the presence of Jesus, there is strength for the weak, and students who were on the brink of giving up found themselves clinging to God for hope.

If you keep your struggles, your sins, and your pains to yourself, you will never find peace. If you keep those things in the dark, they will grow. But if you can find a support system to open up to, you can shed light on the once dark places and begin to heal. For where two or three gather in the name of Christ, He will bring healing. Do not keep your pain a secret any longer, for the path to freedom begins by opening up to others.

Do Miracles Still Happen?

People have often asked me, “Why is it that God does not perform miracles like He did in the Old Testament and with the disciples?” They look at the world around them and see suffering and disbelief and wonder where the acts of God that left people awestruck are absent in a world that needs them so badly. They question whether God cares enough to step in for His people. If He does, they wonder if maybe He is not strong enough to do something. Why IS it that He will not step in to help us?

I struggled to find an answer myself. I struggled to find examples of God intervening from around the world in order to satisfy the desire for a miracle. Unfortunately, the only things I could find seemed sketchy and questionable. No matter how hard I looked, I could not find evidence of God stepping in to help the hurting like He did in the past.

I was looking for the wrong thing.

When God’s people asked for signs and miracles in the desert, they were asking God show them that He was still relevant. They needed to know that He was able to handle their problems. And so He brought water from the rocks and sent food from the heavens.

When Jesus was asked to demonstrate His power, He was being asked to prove that He was the Messiah. His followers needed to know that He WAS the Son of God and that He could actually deliver on what He offered. So He healed their sick and forgave their sins on the cross, but He did not call angels down to destroy the Romans.

Despite the years since the cross, people still need to know that God can handle their problems. The difference is that now, humans do not need God to bring water from stones or angelic deliverance from opposing armies. They are looking for a God that can help them cope with their lives. Why would someone care for a God that can rip open the sky if He cannot prove He can help with a break-up?

Instead of signs and wonders in the sky, God has focused His miracle-working power onto our hearts, transforming them and making them into something beautiful that showcases His glory. God is working miracles that prove He is still relevant and capable of handling the troubles of today, and these miracles are seen through people’s personal stories. Your walk with God is the miracle someone needs to see in order to believe God can help.

Miracles no longer happen in the sky. They happen within people.
So next time someone asks you for a miracle, tell them what God has done for you.

Résumé

This past weekend, the students from Ignite Monmouth went out into the local community and served at the Jamieson Center. They were actively heeding the call of Christ to serve the needs of the hurting and needy in their local area, the surrounding community, and in all the world. They were the hands and feet of Jesus.

But why were they serving?

Some were there to rack up service hours – three hours on a Saturday morning will help with a semester’s required service hours. Others were there because they were hosting it; if they did not show up then they could not expect others to either. Some may even have been there just out of a desire to help others.

What all of the students may not have realized was that they were building God’s résumé in the local community. God brought each of those students to Monmouth College for various reasons, and over the weekend He chose to include them in His plan to reveal Himself to the city of Monmouth. Because these college students woke up early on a Saturday and served at the local community center, God has been glorified. People who ask will now know that the hands and feet of Jesus have worked at the Jamieson Center. The résumé of the Holy One has been updated.

To do so, the only thing these students did was reach out.

Where do you need to reach out?
Who in your city needs healing, food, or shelter today?
What are you doing to address that need?

Do not let another day go by. Step out and start helping the hurting in whatever capacity you can. You can talk about Jesus and prove God all you like, but people are looking for healing. People will believe in God when they feel His healing hand upon them, and they will trust in Christ when they feel His arms wrapped around them. Hearing, “God loves you” is hard to believe if He does not seem near.

So start serving. Enable God to work in your community through you. When employers look for a new hire, they do not look for someone who can talk a big game – they look for someone with the experience to do the job. In the same way, people are not looking for someone to tell them about God, they are looking for someone to SHOW them God.

And now the only question left unanswered falls on you.

Where will God work next?

Read it yourself: Matthew 25:31-46, Acts 1:8

Just Pray

Praying is one of the most difficult struggles for Christians today.

Reading the Bible can be tedious, but when we see the Bible sitting on the table, it reminds us that we need to read. Sin is a huge challenge, but we KNOW that we are not to participate in it, so we fight to stay away from sin.

It’s different with prayer. There is no physical reminder to call us to pray, and forgetting to make time for prayer is a very easy.

Even still, the biggest issue we have with prayer is that we do not know how to do it. Jesus taught us one prayer, but sometimes that prayer can seem rehearsed and ineffective. Other times, we have specific needs and thanks to offer God, but we are unsure how to do it. Worse still, there are times we feel as though God is not answering our prayers – either He is not listening or He feels distant and unconcerned. Our prayers go unanswered and we feel as though God never heard them in the first place. Prayer is hard!

But it does not have to be.

God wants us to call out to Him, and He does not care how we do it. He just wants to hear from us. Your prayers do not need to be eloquent pieces of work; they just need to be heartfelt. Your prayers do not need to cry out for the salvation of all souls; they just need to be an honest presentation of your heart to God. He is waiting to hear your voice today, and when He does, He will rejoice that you contacted Him in the first place (Ps. 141:2, Matt 6:7).

Even if you do not know WHAT to pray, God still wants to hear from you. Just open your heart and start talking. If you can think of nothing else to say but Jesus’ name, then cry, “Jesus!” with all you can muster, and trust God. The sweetest prayer comes not from the best words or asks for the nicest things, but from the heart that earnestly seeks to touch God.

Do not believe the lies any longer. God is waiting on the edge of His seat to hear from you. He longs to hear your voice. He looks forward to when you contact Him, you just have to start talking.

Remember: God HEARS every prayer and rejoices, He just does not answer all of them the way we want. So start now. Have a discussion with the Lord of Creation and see what He has to say to you.

Just pray.

Read it yourself: 2 Chronicles 7:14, Romans 8:26, Psalm 141:2, Matthew 6:7

Trusted by God

Serving God is hard.

Whether you pastor a small country church, lead a mega-church, travel for missions, play worship, or simply tell a friend about God, serving God is never easy. It might bring joy, but it always costs.

Often, the cost can dampen even the brightest fire for God. When someone complains about the message that was given or the way a song was sang, feelings get hurt. Low attendance can humble the greatest confidence, and rejection can make it easy for someone to stop sharing the Gospel. Even in the greatest ministries, one failure can be enough to make people lose hope.

We know what we are supposed to do when we get discouraged. Call on God! Put your trust in Him! Believe that He has a plan for you! These are all great things to do, and anyone in a situation of despair should do them – but they do not bring encouragement. Waiting for God to answer one’s call tries the patience. Believing that God has a plan for you grants a future hope, but does nothing to assuage the present anxiety. We are not worthy or able to complete the task, so we must wait nervously and impatiently for God to come and lift us up.

But God sees things differently.

You ARE able and worthy to fulfill the duties that God has given you. You are in the position that you are in now because for a reason. God did not elevate you to a position of leadership so that He could embarrass or discourage you – He placed you there so that you could excel and bring Him glory! God gave you this opportunity because no one else could do it like you can. He has made you with a purpose, and He has entrusted you with the reputation of His Church. God’s hope for the Church is in you. He considers you trustworthy.

So, next time you begin to feel worthless or lost in your service to God, remember:
God believes in you.

He has placed you according to your abilities.
He considers you worthy of His name.
God trusts you.

Read it yourself: 1 Timothy 1:12-17

Why Me?

Back in January, I was at a retreat for my Seminary education, and I was in the valley. I had realized that my relationship with God, despite being six years in the making, had become superficial and stale. I had gone through the motion of being a Christian, including prayer, preaching, and learning about God, all without building up my relationship with Him. I felt hopeless and lost. For years I had thought that I was growing towards God, and suddenly I realized that I had missed the point all along. I was at a rock-bottom place spiritually.

So I did the only thing that I could think of to do. I prayed to God. I asked Him to show me where I had gone wrong, where I needed to be, and how I could get there. I asked Him for a sign that He had not abandoned me in my superficial faith. And then I waited.

For two days I waited without a single notice from God. I was desperate, and was looking for any kind of indication that God was still hearing me. I knew that I was loved by God – the Bible had told me so, and I had read about it countless times, but that was not enough anymore. God HAD to love me – after all, He was God. But why me? Why had God decided that I personally was valuable enough to send His Son to die? What about me had attracted God to me before I was ever created?

I had to know, so I asked. I asked God to tell me why He had been drawn to me. I knew why I had been drawn to God – Revelation and fear of judgment had evolved, at one point, into a love for my Creator. But I did not know what made me special to God. So again I waited.

Finally, I received my answer. God told me why He loved ME. Thus began my slow climb back out of the valley.

Have you ever asked God why He loves you in particular? Do you know what it is about you that makes you so special to God that He was willing to send His son? There is something, and God wants to tell you what it is. He loves you dearly – enough to come and die for you. Because He loves you, He is not going to stay silent forever. Just ask.

“Why me?”

He is just waiting for you to ask.

God Cheated

God and Satan have been playing a game against each other for a very long time. The game has been close, and every time one has tried to get ahead, the other has managed to frustrate the plan. Suddenly, Satan thinks he finally has what it takes to win. The last pieces of his game plan fall into place, and God plays right into his hands.

Satan has won the game

But God does not concede defeat. Instead, He declares that, in fact, Satan has NOT won, because it’s GOD’S game. God insists that because it is His game, all will play by His rules.

He. Wins.

If something like this happened to one of us, we would instantly accuse the other person of cheating. We would feel lied to, manipulated, and cheated. An argument would most certainly erupt.

And yet this exact scenario played out millennia ago when God sent His Son for our sins. God had made numerous promises to the Israelites, and Satan had tried relentlessly to ruin each one.

Abraham would become a great nation – but the Hebrew people were enslaved in Egypt.
Saul would be a king for God – but jealousy turned him into a tyrant.
Israel would be God’s chosen nation – but Assyria, Babylon, and Rome conquered them.

Then Jesus came.

This was Satan’s golden opportunity. He knew the Scriptures – if He could cause Jesus to sin or snuff out His mission, God would fail. e would successfully have corrupted The Almighty. None of his past failures to ruin God would matter, because if he could conquer Jesus, He would conquer God.

It should come as no surprise, then, that Satan put so much effort into killing Jesus.

He turned the Romans against Him.
He turned the Jews against Him.
He even turned one of His closest friends against Him.

Jesus was tortured, and Jesus died. Hell rejoiced. Satan had conquered God.

Imagine Satan’s surprise when three days later Heaven was rejoicing. In the ultimate show of His power and majesty, God raised Christ from the dead for the salvation of all humanity. In this one act, God both showed His infinite love for us while also showing to Satan and the entire world that no matter what, the plans of God will always prevail.

Satan probably walked away that day thinking one thing:
God cheated.

The world around us might seem like it is against us. We can’t seem to save money. Our relationships fall apart. Life just gets in the way. Yet God has a plan for each of us, and He wants nothing more than to fulfill that plan for us. He is strong enough to do it, and He is more than willing to do it. He broke the rules of a cosmic game for us once. He’s not going to let you fall apart.