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What is Theology?

Theology. It tends to have a negative connotation for many Christians. It conjures up images of stuffy old men spending hours studying scripture just so they can tell people when they are wrong about God. It’s often tied to those who are judgmental, hypocritical, and angry.

For many Christians, just the mention of the word makes their eyes gloss over. We simply don’t understand what theology means.

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Jesus is Here

“To them God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.” Colossians 1:27

Christ in you.
It truly is the hope of glory.

We don’t serve a God who lives somewhere out there — beyond the clouds in the depths of the universe so far away it seems as if He’s impossible to find. He isn’t lounging on a cloud somewhere while cherubim feed him grapes.

That’s what a lot of us picture when we think of God.

He’s in heaven.
We’re on earth.

He’s somewhere out there over the rainbow. Sure, we can come to Him with the big things of life. Troubles. Strife. Sickness. Direction.

But the little things? The every day, drag myself out of bed and go to work things? He’s far too distant, far too important for those things.

At least, that would be true if we served a distant god.

But our God isn’t distant. He isn’t over the rainbow. He isn’t lounging on a cloud and impossible to get to.

Our God, Jesus, is in us.

It’s the wondrous mystery only found in Christianity.

Jesus is close enough to know everything about you — your first thoughts when you wake up, your last thoughts before you go to sleep, the insecurities you have about yourself, the fears, doubts and worries you struggle with, your deepest desires, your darkest secrets, what you really wanted to say to that person who hurt you.

He knows everything about you.
And He cares about it all.

The beauty of serving a God so close is that He cares about everything in your life. Tweet this

You don’t have to reach Him. You don’t have to find Him. You don’t have to strive to achieve some level of perfection to get His attention.

Jesus is here. He is in you.
And He cares about everything in your life.

How would truly believing that Jesus is here change how you see yourself? Leave a comment below.

5 Tips to Thrive in Your Faith the First Week of College

Millions of students around the country will venture off this week (or some week very soon) to college. They will pack their bags, make the journey to the college they chose, and settle in for an amazing adventure. It will be an exciting, scary, sad, and exhilarating week.

But the first week of college also holds some pitfalls.

Statistically, 60-80% of incoming college freshmen who were actively involved in a Christian youth group during high school will walk away from their faith, many in this first week. That’s alarming.

Tips to Thrive

So how do you avoid being one of those statistics? Here are a few tips to thrive in your faith on campus:

  1. Get Involved in a Christian Group on Campus You might have to do some digging to find one, but most college campuses have at least one Christian organization on campus. It will help you connect with other believers, build friendships, and continue actively pursuing God. Can’t find a group? Consider starting an Ignite group on your campus! Contact us to learn more.
  2. Spend Time with God Daily Being on your own for the first time can be overwhelming. Make sure you set aside time every day to spend with God. The pull to get involved with everything on campus will be strong – and try to eat up any time you have to pursue Christ. Schedule your time, especially during the first week when you’re trying to figure out your schedule.
  3. Be Careful Who You Spend Time With Typically, within the first month, you will have started the friendships that will carry you through your college career. Choose wisely. There may be some lonely moments if you choose not to drink and party, but the people you surround yourself with will be an indicator of who you become. Who do you want to become?
  4. Get Involved Find organizations on campus you’re interested in, and get involved! Like to write? Join the newspaper. Like to plan events? Join the student programming association. Gifted to lead? Run for student body or dorm leadership. Like sports? Join a team or play in intramural leagues. Getting involved in activities you like will help you meet new people and enjoy your time at college.
  5. Be Yourself The temptation will be strong, especially during the first week, to do whatever it takes to fit in. Don’t give in. Be yourself and you’ll find those people who like you for who you are, not who you pretend to be. Trust me, it will save you a lot of heartache and pain later if you learn to just be yourself and not worry if people don’t like you.

These 5 tips will help you to not only survive your first week of college with your faith in tact, but also to thrive. Getting involved in a Christian organization as soon as possible will help your faith grow as you surround yourself with other believers and reach out to those who don’t know Him.

Resources to Help You Grow

Looking for ways to grow your faith while in college? Check out our resources section for a number of devotions, how-to manuals, and more all designed to help you passionately pursue Christ and transform your college campus for Him.

What other ways can you thrive the first week of school?

Background photo credit: Sewanee: The University of the South via photopin cc

Making Disciples

“Therefore go and make disciples of all nations…”  Matthew 28:19

A few weeks ago, I received one of the greatest compliments about Ignite.

I was chatting with one of the leaders of Kristfest – the national youth camp we will help with during our trip to Czech – and he was explaining why my team was chosen to lead the sessions we will lead.

You see, this year’s theme is partly on discipleship, and what it means to be a true disciple of Christ. Throughout the week, our team will lead all the breakout sessions related to discipleship.

The reason? Apparently even in Czech, Ignite is known as a ministry that makes disciples.

I was humbled.

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Starting New Chapters

This past weekend, a number of Ignite Monmouth members walked across the front lawn of Monmouth College for the last time. Amid the clapping and picture taking, tears and goodbyes, these former students are now college graduates.

They started a whole new chapter in their lives.

They said goodbye to the place they called home for four years, to venture out into the unknown.
They are leaving dorm rooms for apartments.
Cafeterias for kitchens.
School work for desk work.
And security for the hope of employment.

A new chapter has begun.

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Miracle Working God

Every year as we solidify the team that will give up two weeks of their summer to invest in the lives of young people in the Czech Republic, I give them a warning and a promise.

God will stretch your faith and you will see Him perform miracles.

This year’s trip has already been no different.

Up until a few weeks ago, the team was struggling to believe God would come through financially. Donations were down, plane ticket prices were up, and it was discouraging to see week after week only a few hundred dollars come in, when we needed a few thousand.

The deadline to purchase our plane tickets was quickly approaching, and we only had the money to purchase one ticket, when we needed four — it was getting very discouraging.

But God was setting us up for something amazing.

Our team pushed through in prayer, asking God to open doors to speak in churches and have conversations with family and friends. Two weeks ago, we were sitting at needing $6,000 to buy our plane tickets.

In one week, over $6,000 came in.

God performed a miracle.

We are happy and excited to announce that as of Saturday, April 26, we purchased plane tickets for all four team members!! This always gives a sense of confidence among the team members — we really are going.

We would like to thank all of you who have prayed for and donated towards this year’s trip to the Czech Republic. Because of your overwhelming generosity, we have been able to purchase the plane tickets and finalize some details of the trip.

The stretching isn’t over yet, though. While we are rejoicing in the over $6,000 God gave us in a week, the team as a whole still needs $2,000 total to cover outreaches, food, and lodging.

If you have been considering donating to the trip, there is still a need! We ask that you pray about how you can help support our team as we reach out to youth in the most atheistic country in the world.

Partner with Us

Our team still has a total of $2,000 to raise to cover food, lodging, and outreach supplies. Please pray about partnering with us to reach young people in the Czech Republic with the gospel of Christ. Click the button below to make a secure, online, tax-deductible donation today!

[button href=”https://www.paypal.com/cgi-bin/webscr?cmd=_s-xclick&hosted_button_id=RVPS973DUEJ7J” align=”center” bg_color=”#000034″ text_color=”#ffffff”]Donate[/button]

Photo Credit: Angelo DeSantis (Creative Commons)

 

 

Why Do You Fundraise for a Mission Trip?

Here at Ignite, we love missions.

In fact, we encourage every student to take part in a mission trip at least one time in their lives. We believe a mission trip has the potential to change lives — not only of those we go to serve, but also those on the team. It pushes you out of your comfort zone, grows your faith, and helps you see the world in a much different way.

Our students love going on an Ignite mission trip.

But there is one part no student likes — raising the money to go.

Fundraising Misconceptions

It’s uncomfortable asking people to give you money to go on a mission trip, especially when it seems like they get nothing in return. I mean, who likes asking others for money? It can be awkward, intimidating, and down right humiliating.

That is, if you don’t understand what fundraising for a mission trip is all about.

There are a lot of misconceptions when it comes to fundraising for a mission trip, both for students and for their parents:

  • It’s nothing more than begging others for money
  • It’s asking people to fund something you should pay for yourself
  • It’s a sign that your family can’t provide for your needs
  • It’s getting free money without any benefit for those who give
  • It’s inappropriate to ask others for money
  • It’s wrong to go do work in another country when there are so many needs here
  • And the kicker: we don’t want the family getting uncomfortable with you just asking for money (Our students get this one a LOT).

Many parents see our form of fundraising — sending out letters asking for money — with the lens of one, if not all, of the reasons above.

And once they see fundraising letters through those lenses, it’s difficult to see anything else.

But, you see, fundraising for a mission trip isn’t about the money.
It’s about the partnership.

Missions Partnership

As followers of Christ, we are called to take his truths to the end of the earth (Matthew 28:19). It was the last charge Jesus gave to us before He ascended back into heaven, which means: it’s non-negotiable.

However, realistically, not all of us can physically go on a mission trip. There are jobs to work, bills to pay, and kids to watch.

That’s where supporting a mission team comes in.

When we fundraise for an Ignite mission trip, we aren’t asking people to just give us money so we can go do our thing. We’re asking people to partner with us — to join together with us as we plan, prepare, and ultimately go to impact lives.

Making an Impact

Financially partnering with a mission trip makes you a part of what God wants to do. You are a conduit — providing a way for others to bring His truths to the nations. And when lives are changed — God credits that life change to everyone involved: the team who went and the team who gave financially.

Those who give financially aren’t just donors. They are part of the mission team.

One day, when we find ourselves in heaven and Christ is showing us how our lives built His kingdom, there will be a number of people you never met before who thank you for the impact you made — simply because you paved the way financially for someone else to do the work of bringing the gospel to them.

That’s the power of supporting a mission team.

When we send out letters, we aren’t asking people for a handout.
We are asking for a partnership — a partnership in changing lives and seeing others come closer to Christ.

And we don’t want to deny anyone that opportunity.

That’s why we send out fundraising letters.

Partner with Us

Are you ready to make a difference in the lives of others? Consider partnering with our Czech Republic team! Each team member needs to raise $3,400 in order to cover the costs of this trip, for a team total of $17,000. Please pray about partnering with us to reach young people in the Czech Republic with the gospel of Christ. Click the button below to make a secure, online, tax-deductible donation today!

[button href=”https://www.paypal.com/cgi-bin/webscr?cmd=_s-xclick&hosted_button_id=RVPS973DUEJ7J” align=”center” bg_color=”#000034″ text_color=”#ffffff”]Donate[/button]

 

 

Greater

This past weekend, twenty eight students from Monmouth College, Knox College, and Joliet Junior College gathered together for the Ignite Encounter Retreat. They took time away from school, put aside homework and work, and spent the weekend seeking after God.

There were speaking sessions focused on rejoicing in all God does in our lives, the need to lay a solid foundation on Christ, learning to speak God’s word over the dry bones — or impossible situations — in our lives, and an ending devotion challenging them to take what happened at the retreat and bring it to students in need of Christ’s love. There were multiple times of worship, opportunities for prayer, many conversations amongst students, and some very genuine encounters.

While every encounter retreat is powerful, during this semester’s retreat God did something greater.

  • One student heard God speaking to him for only the second time in his life.
  • Another student found the courage to face the issues in her life and seek God’s healing.
  • Another student realized there were dead areas in her life and found the determination to see them come back to life.
  • Multiple students found answers to questions they were wrestling with for awhile.
  • Some students discovered the power of fully worshipping God.
  • One student received healing in her foot during a discussion session. We didn’t even pray over it, but by the time the session was done, the pain was gone in her foot.

But one of the greatest moments of the retreat happened Saturday night, as students took time to pray for their schools — and the graduating seniors took time to pray for the underclassmen to continue building upon the work already done at their school.

Greater.
God promises to do greater things when we wholly surrender ourselves to Him.

The students on the Ignite Encounter Retreat experienced something greater this weekend — in their lives, in their relationship with each other, in their relationship with God and, ultimately, on their college campuses — and so can you.

God doesn’t call us to be perfect, to know everything there is to know about Him or the bible, to have all our “stuff” together. He simply asks us to give Him ourselves — every aspect of our lives — so He can do something greater in us.

No matter what you’re facing, no matter what circumstances have risen, no matter what areas in you life feel dry, dead, or impossible, in the hands of our great God, He can take whatever we give him and make it into something greater.

But it starts when we unashamedly and fearlessly seek after Him.

Power of Love

Last week, members of our Ignite Monmouth group hosted the first ever Ignite Week — five nights of strategic events targeted at building relationships with students who have never been to an Ignite gathering.

We had a massive dodgeball game in the athletic center, a night of soda pong and card games in the student center, the first Ignite gathering of the semester with free pizza, a video game night in the student center, and capped it all off with a free chili dinner and game night at the Ignite house.

It was a very fun, exciting, and tiring week. But it was a smashing success. Within a short time, we already have new people committed to coming to Ignite every week to learn more about and encounter God.

But here’s the catch — it was all relationship based.

At no time during Ignite week did we hand out gospel tracks. We didn’t stand in the center of campus and call students to repentance. We weren’t after conversions, decisions, or trying to boost the number of students who got saved.

We simply were out to get to know students, and show them that the Christians on campus, they actually care about and love people.

And we really do.

Students who were struggling to find a group of friends on campus found a place to belong.
Others who had drifted from God found a place to come back to Him again.
Some discovered that not all Christians are judgmental, boring people.
Others even said it was the first time they felt happy since being on campus.

There is power in truly loving others where they are and for who they are.

Comforting them in their pain.
Meeting them in their routine.
Rejoice with them in their blessings.
Crying with them in their hurts.

The simple act of interrupting your day and going out of your way to interact with someone else speaks volumes — and shows others that God really does care.

We saw it last week in our Ignite Week events — and because of our love, lives have been and will be forever changed.

How are you displaying Christ’s love to others?

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.