Saturday, January 30, 2010

GTEG on death row?

About a month ago, students attending private colleges, like myself, received notification that the Georgia Tuition Equalization Grant was being cut over $100 starting this semester. About a week or so ago, we got an email that the governor has proposed the elimination of the GTEG altogether.

"The state is in a terrible budget situation, revenues are down more than 20 percent, and we looked for anything we could possibly find to cut," Bert Brantley, a spokesman for the governor's office, said. "And GTEG just happened to be one of those things."

Personally, I find this completely appalling and ridiculous. Education should be one of the governments top priorities. However, Brantley says the GTEG is considered a "luxury" that the state can no longer afford. I say bull.

For many students, eliminating the GTEG could mean that they are no longer able to attend the college of their choice. It's about $1000 worth of grants per year, which is a considerable amount of money.

I just think it's sad that the government cuts education when it's in times of financial hardships.

There is so much more I want to say, but being a Christian man, I cannot.


Thursday, January 28, 2010

No One Is Too Lost Or Too Far

I love the book of Isaiah. It's definitely one of my favorite books of the bible, if not my favorite. I just love the way God spoke through Isaiah. I learn so much from his prophecies. The other day I stumbled upon this verse, and it blew me away.

"For the Sovereign Lord,
     who brings back the outcasts of Israel, says:
'I will bring others, too,
     besides my people Israel.' "
-Isaiah 56:8

Maybe I just get excited really easily, but this verse really makes me happy and gives me hope. Hope for people close to me that I fear will never come to see the Father, as well as for those who live in obscure places of the world that have never heard the name of Christ.

Someone I know was once deeply confused and consumed by doubt because she found it hard for a loving and just God to send people who have never heard of Christ to Hell. She even started to look into religions that suggested that multiple saviors arouse in different parts of the world so that everyone would hear the good news. She had so many questions and regrettably, I had very few answers at the time.

She must have found them eventually, because she was baptized this past December.

But that's not the point (even though it's a wonderful and happy occasion, really). I soon dug through the Bible for an answer, because I really wanted to help (and I became curious for the answer myself). Ironically, I stumbled upon the answer in one of the appendixes of my study bible. The timeline. And here is what I find. And I promise I'll come back to that first verse.

You see, before we were given the gift of the Spirit, we had to listen to people that God chose as His prophet. And the lineage of the Spirit can be traced all the way back to when God banished man (and woman) from Eden. And we notice that yes, God sends His messages to the same area. But I don't believe this is because He is selective. I believe that it is because it is the original kingdom of God, where all man came from. The reason we have so many areas of the world that have not heard God's word can be found in the very first pages of the Bible:

"So Cain went out from the LORD's presence and lived in the land of Nod, east of Eden."
-Genesis 4:16

Some people, throughout history, chose to be like Cain and leave the Kingdom without bringing the word of God with them. It is really sad that places exist where the LORD is completely unknown, but it is not the fault of God. It is the fault of man. The more I think about it, the only way for God to be clear in His teachings and messages was for Him to be consistent in the area that He sent them. If His Word showed up in random places of the world in random bits and pieces, it would be a close to impossible puzzle to solve. God wasn't being selective, He was being consistent, reliable, and clear. Just as a perfect truth and Love should be.

Isaiah relieves us and blesses us with just how perfect His love is, in that there is hope yet for everyone. For God says that he will bring back the outcasts of Israel. Not only that, but He will bring others, too.

Isn't God amazing?

- Zack

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Hitchhiker's Guide To My Conscience

I thought I knew what I wanted to blog today as I was driving up to Rome from my house. But something else completely revamped my thoughts and my day.

So, it was raining and I was taking the ramp onto US 411/Ga State Route 20 towards Rome when I saw a hitchhiker walking along the road. He would wave his thumb out in his direction of preferred travel, and then when the car passed, he would continue his walking. I was next in line. I thought about stopping and giving him a ride, but ultimately just waved at him. All these thoughts popped in my head of stories of criminals acting as hitchhikers and killing/robbing/raping the victims who stopped to help them. I just couldn't trust him no matter how much of me was screaming at me to stop.

And I call myself a Christian? A follower of Christ who strives to mimic His love and courage? As I drove further and further away, it started POURING. All I could think about was this poor man who was walking on this road. But I couldn't bring myself to turning around. I saw the Connect Rome flyer and even daydreamed about reaching out and encouraging him to visit. But those were just thoughts without actions to back them up. All I did was wave.

And it got me to thinking. Even if that man was the worst person on Earth, doesn't Christ encourage us to share His love with people like him, just as we would any other man? If the Spirit was calling me to help this man, I should have trusted that the will of God is perfect and that I would have been protected.

Maybe I'm beating myself up over it too much. But I do think it's sad that society has created a paranoia that makes it hard to trust people who seem like they are in need. Who knows, I could have died tonight thinking I was saving someone from the rain. But on the other hand... I could have extended Christ's loving hand to someone, leading them to the possibility of being saved from death.

- Zack

Thursday, January 21, 2010

There Is Light

If my last post (or should I say first post?) sounded harsh or discouraging towards the world or the church, I apologize. I didn't mean to be, I only meant to express some thoughts I was chewing on. I left out the best and final stop of my "beauty contest" train of thought. The one that inspired me to write.

A few weeks ago, I started attending a church here in Rome called Connect Rome. They met in a bar (Matt, to answer your question, I think if Jesus were to start a church, he would probably try meeting in a bar) on Broad Street on Sunday Mornings, across the street from a non-profit coffee shop they oversee called "The Nest" (all the people who work for the Nest are volunteers, and all the money goes toward the community... every penny). Their goal: to make it simple for the people of Rome to connect to God.

They did. And do. During their first year, 160 people came to Christ.

Starting this year, both the Nest and the Church moved to our mall (to be a more family-friendly environment and to get more revenue for the community outreach programs through the Nest). I have attended three of their services within the past couple months (in three different locations, because they have been in transition). They have been the most incredible and God-inspired worship services I have ever attended.

In the most recent service, the Church opened for the first time in the mall. During the worship service, I kept glancing at the doors, hoping God would inspire others to join in. I was so excited I cried. It was worship in its purest form. Pure joy shouted out to the Lord. 6 people out of the 200 or so entered the service unaware of their need for Christ and left saved by his grace. And it was then, in the midst of it all, that I realized... this is real. This is genuine. This is the body moving. And suddenly, I realized that I hadn't checked the time during the service. I wasn't waiting for it to be over. It wasn't just one ordinary, routine hour of the week.

And suddenly I realized how beautiful church can be when its not caught up in a beauty pageant of sorts.

God is moving. He really is. Through you. Through me. Through the body.

There is light, and there always will be.


Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Not A Beauty Contest

Shorter College hosts the Miss Shorter Pageant every year. It was last week. I didn't go. I never go. I used to feel bad, but then I got to really thinking about it. I've never really liked beauty pageants. It really doesn't stem from jealousy at all. Being a guy, I never felt the urge to sign up. The idea of a beauty pageant just seems completely judgmental and shallow. I'm not trying to downgrade any winners of beauty pageants. I'm sure you worked hard and deserve your titles. I'm simply not a fan of the system.

I promise theres a point to what I'm saying.

We all know what a beauty pageant is. Typically, there are three areas of judgment: Overall appearance, talent, and personality (correct me if I'm wrong, I've never been to one). When we
look at those three things though... who is anyone to say that one is greater than the other? Aren't we born with our appearance, have our own unique personalities, and have areas we are skilled at and those that we are not? For the most part, these aren't things we can control. It's what makes us who we are.

As long as you are true to yourself, you should never have to consider your traits as "worthy" or "unworthy" of this world. You should never have to compare yourself to others.

Yet, it seems like the more I think about it, a lot of things work like a pageant. Society has this invisible beauty contest in effect, where people feel like they need to have the best looking cars/houses/clothes/bodies/whatever. They have to be the best at what they do and have an attractive personality or risk losing their job. Companies have to top each other with their software and products. Everyone seems to be wrapped up in some beauty contest.

Even the church.

Many times, churches focus on having the biggest and prettiest building, the best praise band/choir, the most members, and a charismatic pastor who gives the best-sounding sermons, says all the right things, and who everyone loves.

But is that what its all about? Would Christ win a modern-day beauty contest? He was hardly ever clean shaven, had bruises and scars, said things that were convicting and unpopular, and He was even considered to be crazy and a heretic by some. His own followers disowned Him and watched Him die a painful, slow death on the cross.

And yet there could never be anyone more beautiful or glorious.

I hope that in my writing, I convey the type of messages that reflect His love and a blog that reflects His beauty rather another attempt at being the sleekest, loudest, most attractive place in the blogsphere.

Thanks for reading, I hope you enjoyed and stick around.