Our Wedding Day

Our Wedding Day


I can’t believe it’s only been a year of marriage so far! It feels as if we have made too many exciting memories and reached too many milestones in such a short span of time that I must be mistaken, but my calendar reminds me that a mere 12 months have passed. Upon my recent reflections over the past year, I have thought of 12 of my favorite things about being married to my wife for the past 12 months. Here they are, in no particular order:

1. I love coming home to her every night. Whether my day was full of stressful work or exciting news, I get to come home to her beautiful, smiling face every night. I know that she’ll be happy to see me, I’ll be happy to see her, and we’ll get to share our joys and sorrows of the day together over a meal.

2. I love the way she laughs and smiles all the time. I’ve had numerous people tell me that my wife is the happiest, most easy-going person they know, and I can’t agree more. She has a cute smile and her laugh is infectious. I love when she really gets laughing during a funny movie, a stand-up comedy routine, or when joking with friends. Granted, I got to hear her laugh before we were married, but i get to hear it a lot more now that we live together.

3. I love getting to go to bed and wake up next to her. After years of dating and having to drive home tired after saying goodnight, the relief and intimacy of finally getting to fall asleep side-by-side is tremendous. My favorite time is Saturday mornings, when we can sleep in together and relax without a care about the world outside our apartment.

4. I love getting to see her sweetness, hospitality, and care expressed even more now that we have our own place. I’ve always known she was sweet and thoughtful. After all, that was one of her traits that attracted me to her in the first place. However, now that we have a home to which we can invite friends and in which she can host a Bible study, I’ve gotten to observe how welcoming and hospitable she is. I love that about her, and I can’t wait to see it expressed even more when we have our own home and family one day.

5. I love having her unwavering support. My wife is the most supportive person I know. She listens with care as I express concerns about work or plans for the future. She spoils me with her thoughtfulness, giving me back rubs to relieve my knotted muscles after a day at the office and preparing dinner even when she’s tired. Just today, I have been bogged down a bit with a cold, and she has made me multiple cups of hot tea, brought me chicken noodle soup, and has done everything she can to help me feel better. I never worry that she would be anything less than supportive if something tragic should happen to my health or job, or if we encountered any other difficulty. A wife’s undying support is the dream of every husband, and I count myself extremely blessed with hers.

6. I love taking walks with her. We’ve started to do this more often, and it never fails to be the highlight of my day. Our walks, whether along a sandy beach or just around our neighborhood, almost always lead to us reflecting on God’s faithfulness to us and our exciting plans for the future. When we were dating and engaged, we would go for walks and talk about what we looked forward to about being married, what kind of jobs we might want to pursue, where we would want our apartment to be and what it would be like to have our own place together. Recently, our talks have tended to revolve around how content we are with where God has us in life right now, what kind of job she would be best suited for, and what kind of house we might want to buy in the future. Our conversations on walks tend to be forward-looking and hopeful, and the undistracted time alone together is a beautiful thing.

7. I love that we don’t fight a lot. Sure, we have our moments, but she is so easy-going and forgiving that getting along is way easier than it should be with a selfish guy like me. She’s patient with me when I leave the toilet seat up or forget to offer her a drink when I’m getting myself one at dinner. In many ways, I expected the first year to be much more difficult in terms of conflict after hearing so much advice to that effect, but it’s been fairly smooth sailing. All of this can be attributed to her sweet character and definitely not mine!

8. I love that she encourages me to get out more and try to be more adventurous. Being more of an introvert and bookworm, my tendency is to stay in and read or relax. She’s definitely the more adventurous and outdoorsy one. I really do enjoy the outdoors and adventures, taking hikes and going camping, but I need to be encouraged to do these things or I would let the opportunities slip away. She helps me have more fun and not regret passing up opportunities to make memories.

9. I love that she plans out our lives. My skills are nearly non-existent in the planning and scheduling department, but she makes up for my insufficiency. I love that she plans  hangouts with friends, as these opportunities might get overlooked by my lack of planning (despite my desire to do these things more often). She plans out trips, outings, and vacations, and always makes sure to keep birthdays and holidays on our radar.

10. I love that we get to share meals together at home now. Coming home after work to a home-cooked dinner is wonderful, and there’s nobody I would rather spend that time with. Her cooking skills are always improving with her desire to serve me well, and I appreciate it more than she knows.

11. I love that we have our own home with privacy and independence. We absolutely love our families and spending time with them, but moving out and having our freedom and independence has been amazing. The feeling of shared responsibility and a home we get to make our own is deeply satisfying. Our home is our sanctuary, and we get to take on the world together from this modest little one-bedroom apartment. I wouldn’t have it any other way and we’re thankful God has provided us with the means for our own place. Living together is so good!

12. I love being married to someone who is positive and optimistic about life. No matter how difficult the challenges she faces, she continues to see the brightest aspects of those challenges. Things could always be worse from her perspective, and she really lives with contentment and joy. Chances are you will not see a smile missing from her face even amidst stressful times because she still sees the good in her life more than the bad.

Ambrey, thank you for sharing your life with me for these past 12 months. You’re my role model and I want to learn to be more like you when I grow up! Thank you for supporting me with happiness and joy, and for making me happier than I’ve ever been. I love you more than you can imagine. Happy one year anniversary, my beautiful bride!

 

 

SteveAmbrey

True love began with a bag of Doritos and some cheap, generic Kool-Aid. As we sat in our first Christian Club meeting at Harford Community College in the Fall of 2010, neither Ambrey nor I knew we were sitting in the same room as our future spouse. My loyal friend Eric Powell and I had just started the club that semester because, at the time, there was no real venue for Christians to meet on campus. So, on the first Wednesday meeting, sitting around a table of cheap junk food in the chaos of a crowded student center, I met Ambrey Zaun for the first time.

The first thing I noticed about Ambrey was her infectious smile. Her continuously shining smile and laughter seemed to be a magnet to everyone around her. As the weekly meetings continued, I began to see her vivacious and outgoing personality emerge even more, which I found increasingly attractive. In addition to her personality, I witnessed an authentic love for God in Ambrey and could tell she had a very personal relationship with Him. One of the first times I remember hanging out with Ambrey outside of school was at a bonfire hosted by Eric. To this day, I’m not sure why she wanted anything to do with me after I sang Katy Perry’s “Teenage Dream” in a falsetto voice, or why I sang it in the first place. By the time 2:00 A.M. finally rolled around, it was time for the few of us who remained to finally leave, and I walked out to my car along with Ambrey to hers. I asked her if she knew how to get out of the neighborhood, to which she hesitated before admitting she did not. I started to explain, but then suggested it might be easier if she followed me out. To this day, Ambrey says that small act of kindness piqued her interest.

Not long after, I needed to get Ambrey’s number from her friend Samm, purely for club event invitations, of course. After I texted Ambrey for the first time, we began texting more, chatting on Facebook more, and flirting more. Our conversations covered everything from our favorite food to various trips we had been on. I distinctly remember asking Ambrey once about the qualities she looked for in a guy. She replied with her thoughts and then returned the question to me. I replied with a thinly disguised description of her.

Toward the end of the semester, Christmas was coming. I asked Ambrey if she would like to do some last-minute Christmas shopping together, so we went out for the first time by ourselves. We shopped around at Five-Below and some other stores, being goofy and enjoying our time together. A couple weeks after, we decided to go for a walk together and take pictures at the Ma and Pa trail with our two Golden Retrievers, Molly and Holly.

As our friendship began to grow, my feelings for Ambrey outgrew contentment with mere friendship, and I decided it was time to officially ask her out. After securing permission from Ambrey’s dad, we went for a Saturday afternoon lunch at Panera Bread. I don’t remember what we talked about for the first half hour, but we enjoyed some conversation and both ate in our usually messy way. I thought it was cute that she had even more crumbs around her plate than I did, which was a challenging feat indeed. Finally, I mustered up the courage to share with her how I felt our relationship was growing quickly, how much I admired her and her godly character, and how I wished for her to be my girlfriend. She smiled that joyous smile of hers the entire time I was speaking, and we were both ecstatic that our relationship became official.

Over the next year-and-a-half, our relationship grew and matured steadily. We experienced the joys of new jobs and new schools together, endured the grief of losing loved ones, and overcame the longing of months apart from each other while serving God. We have shared our spiritual lives together, talking about the lessons God is teaching us along the way and the goals he has called us to.

Eventually, we both knew we wanted to get married and were eager for that day. My plan had always been to finish school and get settled into a career before getting married, but that date was too far off and the anticipation was too great. When you know you want to spend the rest of your days with someone, you want the “rest of your days” to start as soon as possible. Together, we came up with a plan to get married before my last semester of school, as long as I could get a good enough job to support us until graduation.

In the summer of 2012, I had my foot in the door at a good summer internship and decided it was time to ask Ambrey’s dad for permission to marry her. I was nervous for all the same reasons any guy is, only more so because I did not have a job lined up beyond the summer. However, I had faith and a strong conviction that God was calling me to take decisive action on a long-considered, long-prayed-for plan. I met privately with Mr. Marion, Ambrey’s dad, one evening when Ambrey was nannying. I told him how much I loved and cherished his daughter, how our relationship had matured and developed over the year-and-a-half since we began dating, and how I wanted to spend the rest of my life with her. I told him I wanted to provide for her, protect her, and lead her. Then, I asked for his permission for Ambrey’s hand in marriage and held my breath in anticipation. Mr. Marion could not have been more kind and gracious in giving his approval, and he told me he saw our relationship heading toward marriage as well. He said that he felt God made us to be better together than apart, and he felt this was God’s will, too. We talked a little while longer, prayed together for our wedding and future marriage, hugged, and said goodbye. The very next day, I received an email informing me that I was accepted for the position which I applied for weeks earlier, and it would last from the end of the summer until graduation. It seemed God decided to generously reward our faith.

After I bought the ring, the Zauns invited me to go along with the family to a friend’s beach house in late August. It seemed like the perfect opportunity for a proposal, since the beach is Ambrey’s favorite place in the world. I began to plan the proposal with the help of Ambrey’s mom, Mrs. Cheryl, and by the time we left for the beach everything was in order. On the morning of September 1, 2012, Mr. Larry and Mrs. Bonnie, the friends with whom we were visiting, took Mrs. Cheryl and me out to scout out the beach and finish up the last-minute plans for setup while Ambrey was sleeping. Later in the evening, Ambrey and I were dropped off at the beach and we went for a long, romantic walk. When we returned, a blanket with a picnic basket and roses awaited us. Next to the blanket were three seashells. She picked up the first two, under which were written, “Will,” “You,” and then I held up the last one reading “Marry Me?” With the ring and the shell in hand, I poured out my feelings to her, telling her how much I loved her and cherished her, how much I admired her, how much happiness she brought me, and how I wanted to spend the rest of my life with her. I asked her if she would marry me, to which she joyfully and tearfully replied, “Yes.” This time, we were infinitely more ecstatic than with that first “yes” at Panera almost two years earlier. God even seemed to smile on our engagement with a rainbow directly above us. It was perfect.

Ever since that day, we have been busily preparing with immense excitement. We are ever hopeful and eager for all that God will do in our lives together, and we cannot wait for our wedding day!

“I got a B in my Statistics class, so I retook it. I didn’t feel like I really understood it the first time around.”

“You did what!?” At least, that’s what I would have said if I wasn’t worried about appearing completely ignorant. For me, Statistics was a laborious, dreadful experience that I was relieved to earn a solid C in.

I was talking with my friend Babak in his apartment as he cooked me some Boca Burgers and homemade hash-brown-like fries, a favor he was returning for my middle-of-the-night help on a programming project. As we walked back from his apartment to campus, he explained to me the basic concepts of differential equations and its application in the real world. I didn’t get it. Babak is a Mechanical Engineering major and Computer Science minor with an Iranian heritage. We first met in Spanish class over this past Winter semester. Together, we worked on an illustrated storyboard en español about such scholarly topics as farts, pranks, and couples growing old together. We got an A.

But before I could even nail down the pronunciation of his name, I knew him as the guy who asked an incredible amount of questions. He’s that rare breed of student that actually takes the professor on his offer to “stop me if I’m getting ahead of you or need anything repeated.” Sometimes, Babak even asked the professor to go back to a point he made minutes earlier in his lecture just to be 100% clear. Babak read lecture notes before, during, and after lectures. Once, around Midterm season, he told me that he had been awake for 60 or 70 hours, the only reason for which I ever saw him fall asleep in class.

The reason I’m so impressed with Babak’s academic prowess is not because everything seems to come easy, but because he exerts his whole being for learning. He seems to pour himself into his studies not only out of motivation for a successful career in the future, though he does have that, but because he enjoys the process itself.

Babak inspires me to learn about the world that God designed. His fascination with the details and intricacies of science and math provoke me to remember exactly how mystifying and curious this world was made to be. My contentment with a basic understanding of this crazy planet is rebuked by merely listening to Babak speak about what he finds so naturally exciting.

After all, wasn’t I made to be excited about learning, too? Isn’t God good to give me a mind and a tiny bit of intelligence to comprehend his glory in Calculus, Biology, Literature, and the like? Shouldn’t the fact that I derive enjoyment from grasping a concept make me remember that Somebody made me to enjoy that idea? It’s as if every time I have an “Aha!” moment, God is whispering, “I thought you might like that. Pretty cool, isn’t it?” As the Psalmist writes,

“When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers,
the moon and the stars, which you have set in place,
what is man that you are mindful of him,
and the son of man that you care for him?” (Psalm 8:3-4).

And, likewise, I want to learn wisdom with the same kind of veracity with which Babak studies engineering. I want to seek out counsel and understanding from my elders with the anticipation Babak emits when he listens to lectures. Proverbs 4:5-7 pleads with me to “Get wisdom, get understanding: forget it not; neither decline from the words of my mouth. Forsake her not, and she shall preserve thee: love her, and she shall keep thee. Wisdom is the principal thing; therefore get wisdom: and with all thy getting get understanding.” I like the KJV on that one. “With all thy getting get understanding.” And James reminds me that “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.” So, when it comes to wisdom and understanding, I’m going to get my getting on.

But I’m still not retaking my Statistics class.

This is a transcript from my Good Friday sermon this past year. I’m just realizing I never posted this, so I hope it will be encouraging to you.

Just a quick note: my dad graciously pointed out that one of the paragraphs in this sermon was theologically inaccurate, so I have put a line through that paragraph with a note at the end of the sermon explaining why I have scratched it. 

Please turn in your Bibles to 1 Peter 2:22-24

“He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly. He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed.”

Have you ever read a book for the first time, and you enjoyed it just fine, but then you read it again and appreciate it even more? Having read it once before, you now perceive different literary features layered throughout. You see foreshadowing in the dialogue and events, and you anticipate the plot turns. Your sensitivity to character development is heightened with each reading.

As I began to research Peter’s life in the gospels with this passage from 1 Peter in mind, I had the feeling of reading a book a second time. The words from this beautiful passage certainly make sense apart from knowing the human author’s bio, and they can stand on their own as God’s words spoken through Peter. But I think understanding some of his background may aid us in apprehending the power these words possess. In particular, I want to show that Peter’s repeated refusals to listen to Jesus set him up for blatantly denying him three times.

            Have you ever been talking with somebody, giving instructions or correcting them, and they say, “Yeah, yeah, yeah, I got this. I know. Right, right, yeah.” Those of you who are teachers have gotten this response at times, I’m sure. You explain some concept that you know they don’t understand, and they go, “Ok yeah, yeah, I got it,” only to bomb the next test. Or those of you who have coached sports have probably explained to an athlete how to run a play, and they nodded their head, “Yeah, yeah, coach, I got this, no worries,” only to show they weren’t even close. Really, you would rather them simply say, “I have no idea what I’m doing” until they truly get what you’re saying, than to hold this cocky, unteachable attitude. Maybe you’re even falling prey to this attitude tonight, thinking as you listen to these sermons, “Ok yeah, yeah, I got this, I’ve heard this before, I can check out and text or nod off until we get to the songs and good stuff” Let me plead with you to listen to what God would speak to you tonight, because I think this attitude of misplaced confidence is what set Peter up for denying Jesus. Peter often had a very dismissive approach to Jesus’ words, leading him to often respond in dangerous ways.

In Matthew 16:21-23 we read, “From that time Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, saying, “Far be it from you, Lord! This shall never happen to you.” But he turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me. For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.” Do you see what just happened here? Peter doesn’t understand at all why Jesus would suffer and die, but instead of listening attentively he outright contradicts Jesus. “Nah, no way, why would they do that to you? You’re being unrealistic, Jesus. Don’t be so paranoid.” Consider this building block one in the foundation for denial and devastation.

Secondly, in John 21:15-17, the account reads, “When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Feed my lambs.” He said to him a second time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Tend my sheep.” He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Peter was grieved because he said to him the third time, “Do you love me?” and he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep.” I think, in this passage, Peter once again gives his automatic, self-confident answer to Jesus. “Of course I love you, what are you talking about? Come on now.” Yet, Jesus asks him three times in order to cut through that habitual self-confidence and get Peter to see the heart of the question. What makes this passage even more grieving is that Peter professes his love for Jesus three times, the same number of times he would vehemently deny him a short time later.*

All of the self-confidence and self-sufficiency that Peter has sown into over his years with Jesus is now about to be bitterly revealed on this night of Jesus crucifixion. See, though his eventual denial of Jesus seems to him to come out of nowhere, it is actually the harvest of many, many seeds of arrogance and independence.

Matthew 26:31-35:

Then Jesus said to them, “You will all fall away because of me this night. For it is written, ‘I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock will be scattered.’ But after I am raised up, I will go before you to Galilee.” Peter answered him, “Though they all fall away because of you, I will never fall away.” Jesus said to him, “Truly, I tell you, this very night, before the rooster crows, you will deny me three times.” Peter said to him, “Even if I must die with you, I will not deny you!” And all the disciples said the same.

Matthew 26:69-75

Now Peter was sitting outside in the courtyard. And a servant girl came up to him and said, “You also were with Jesus the Galilean.” But he denied it before them all, saying, “I do not know what you mean.” And when he went out to the entrance, another servant girl saw him, and she said to the bystanders, “This man was with Jesus of Nazareth.” And again he denied it with an oath: “I do not know the man.” After a little while the bystanders came up and said to Peter, “Certainly you too are one of them, for your accent betrays you.” Then he began to invoke a curse on himself and to swear, “I do not know the man.” And immediately the rooster crowed. And Peter remembered the saying of Jesus, “Before the rooster crows, you will deny me three times.” And he went out and wept bitterly.

How heartbreaking is this story? Peter’s story cuts so strongly because it connects with me just a little too strongly, like an odor that conjures distant memories once thought to be vaulted away. How many times have you been in Peter’s place? Do you find yourself at times, like me, making promises to God as if you’re the one with the strength to sustain yourself? “Jesus, I will never deny you,” or, “I’ll never explode at my family again.” “I’ll never fall into temptation with lust again.” “Jesus, I’m done with slandering loved ones behind their backs, never again.” “I’ll never do anything to completely ruin my reputation, credibility, and testimony!” You see, when Jesus predicted his denial, Peter’s response was not, “Jesus, is it really so? Is there any way I can avoid this? What must I do to stay on guard? Pray for me that I might not fall into temptation, please. I don’t want to betray you, but it sickens me to hear this news because I know I am capable of everything you say.” No, his response is self-sufficiency: “Even if I must die with you, I will not deny you!” It’s a great sentiment, but it’s not grounded in the right place (or more accurately, the right person).

This self-sufficiency builds him up for failure, like a kindergarten boy who builds a Lego tower with pride, only to have it knocked to pieces by the bully he wasn’t paying attention to. Peter is not a man known for his restraint, caution, or cool-headedness. So, that night, when Jesus was captured, Peter’s mind got completely distracted from the betrayal warning as he fought bitterly to defend Jesus.

Now in the Jewish courts, Jesus is tried and mocked by an infuriated mob of religious hypocrites, with no one there on his side. Peter likely saw the treatment and was afraid to involve himself, fearing the mockery, torture, and the likely beatings and suffering he would endure. Suddenly, his promise of “Even if I must die with you” was exposed for the bravado it was, nothing more than high talk among friends. “Jesus, you know I’ve got your back no matter what happens.” But now, Peter is faced with the “no matter what,” and he’s in such a petrified state that even the threat of a young servant girl connecting him with Jesus seems horrifying. How did he get to this moment?

Does that resonate with you? Maybe you’ve fallen and you find yourself saying, “God, I was finished with anger, slander, discontentment, bitterness, jealousy, worry, but now it has me completely entangled and I can’t see any way out! How did I get here? I was so determined, so convinced that I was strong enough to never get ensnared by that one again!” You hear the rooster crowing loudly, and he seems to be crowing right in your ear. Jesus’ piercing look is burned into your mind, so that you’re unable to avoid the grip no matter where you turn your eyes. You go out and weep bitterly.

“God, why do I even bother anymore? I’ve disappointed you with this so many times. I feel like it’s not even worth fighting anymore, because every time I get determined to overcome it, I just get defeated and demoralized by it again. Over and over, I’ve tried swimming against this current, but I’m exhausted and I’m further back from where I started. I just can’t deal with it anymore. No more promises, no more commitments, no more swimming, no more fighting. I’m done.”

I think we now see a deeply personal conviction in Peter’s heart behind his words in 1 Peter 2:22-24. “He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly. He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed.”

First, “He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth.” When Peter rebuked Jesus, saying, “Far be it from you, Lord! This shall never happen to you,” deceit was found in Peter’s mouth. He committed sin in rebuking the One who rebuked storms. He committed sin in cutting off a guard’s ear, while guilty himself of not listening. And he committed sin in denying the One who would deny death. Peter now contrasts us with the One he vehemently disavowed. Lest we think we’re any better off, Romans 3:10-11 convicts us. “None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands, no one seeks for God.” And yet, 1 Peter says “He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth.” Let this contrast settle in your heart until it sickens you as it sickened Peter.

Second, “When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly.” Unlike Peter, who threatened and attacked in response to suffering, Jesus did not revile or threaten in return to mockery and accusations. When you read the description of Jesus “entrusting himself to him who judges justly,” you might accidentally think this has an almost negative connotation. You might unknowingly think this description means he is just holding all his anger back until God can give all these criminals what they deserve.  But that’s not the picture of Jesus’ heart we see in Scripture. Do you remember the words Jesus would speak on the cross when he was being reviled? Luke 23:34 tells us he said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” Here, Jesus Christ is in the throes of the most intense pain one can conceive of. Yet, with the few words for which his lungs can gasp the air to speak, he entrusts his murderers into the hands of him who judges justly. In the same way he entrusted those men to his Father, he “is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance,” as Second Peter 3:9 says.

   Third, “He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness.” Jesus didn’t just die on the cross to give us some example of self-sacrifice for us to follow. No, “He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree,” that we might have all our sins forgiven, be freed from slavery to sin, and enjoy innocence before our Holy God. If we get this, and I mean really get it, this understanding will inevitably lead to the “dying to sin” and “living to righteousness” this verse talks about. Peter went on to speak unashamedly for Christ, even telling Pharisees pointedly that they crucified the Messiah, winning thousands of converts to the faith by God’s grace. He conquered his arrogance and fear of man not because he mustered up the courage on his own to change, but I think because he finally understood that Jesus “bore his sins in his body.” When this became clear to him, his response was to die to sin and live to righteousness. A man once repulsed by the prospect of Jesus crucified now broadcasts it to millions of people over land and time.

I hold Peter’s story out to you not merely to present examples of what not to do, as if to join in what seems to be a popular trend that says, “Look how hard-headed Peter was, he just never got it. Let’s not be like that.” My goal in presenting Peter’s example is to say that we are like Peter. We have all relied on ourselves to obey God, and have suffered dearly the consequences of that self-reliance. Maybe you haven’t completely denied Jesus publicly, but I daresay if you continue to sow into this “I would never…” attitude, that time is coming. The good news is, Peter’s testimony can be our testimony.

 To those of you who know Christ personally as your Savior, you are free also to rejoice, saying “Christ died for my sins…He himself bore my sins in his body on the tree “ There is no double jeopardy in this verdict. Your sins cannot be counted twice, once against Jesus and then against you. You can know, as Romans 8:38-39 says so eloquently, “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.

To those who have not trusted in Jesus for forgiveness of sins, I implore you with all my heart to trust in Christ. Peter’s only hope for forgiveness was that “He [Jesus] himself bore our sins in his body on the tree.” While the one who has believed in Christ never has to worry about judgment for his sins, apart from Jesus you cannot have this same comfort. John 3:18 says, “Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.” Please, please don’t leave this place until you can say with full conviction and confidence that “Christ died for my sins…He himself bore my sins in his body on the tree.”

 

*Note on the paragraph I have a strike through: In my sermon, the example I use of Jesus asking Peter, “Do you love me?” is applied out of context. This conversation takes place in very last chapter of John (ch. 21 to be exact) after Jesus’ death and resurrection. In fact, this passage is Jesus kindly reinstating Peter.Therefore, when I said, “What makes this passage even more grieving is that Peter professes his love for Jesus three times, the same number of times he would vehemently deny him a short time later,” I had not done my research and was not being faithful to the text. 

 

On November 4, 2011, a grand jury[17] which had been convened in September, 2009, or earlier,[6] indicted Sandusky on 40 counts of sex crimes against young boys. The indictment came after a three-year investigation that explored allegations of Sandusky having inappropriate contact with a 15-year-old boy over the course of four years, beginning when the boy was ten years old. The boy’s parents reported the incident to police in 2009.[18] A grand jury identified eight boys that had been singled out for sexual advances or sexual assaults by Sandusky, taking place from 1994 through 2009.[19] At least 20 of the incidents allegedly took place while Sandusky was still employed at Penn State.[20] Attorney Joseph Amendola represented Sandusky.[6]
On November 5, 2011, Sandusky was arrested and charged with seven counts of involuntary deviate sexual intercourse; eight counts of corruption of minors, eight counts of endangering the welfare of a child, seven counts of indecent assault; and other offenses.[21] Penn State athletic director Tim Curley and senior vice president for finance and business Gary Schultz (who oversaw the Penn State police department) were charged with perjury and failure to report suspected child abuse by Sandusky.[22][23]
According to the indictment , in 2002 assistant coach Mike McQueary, then a Penn State graduate assistant,[24] said he walked in on Sandusky anally raping a ten-year-old boy. The next day, McQueary reported the incident to Paterno, who informed Curley. Ultimately, it is alleged, the only actions Curley and Schultz took was to bar him from bringing children to the football building, take away his keys to the locker room, and report the incident to Second Mile; these actions were approved by school president Graham Spanier.[25] The indictment accused Curley and Schultz not only of failing to tell the police, but also of falsely telling the grand jury that McQueary never informed them of the alleged sexual activity.[26] -Wikipedia

You’ve probably heard by now about Joe Paterno, Penn State’s head football coach, who was fired over his connection with this Jerry Sandusky case.

If Sandusky’s actions weren’t troubling enough, the depth of corporate injustice in this case is horrifying. The fact that the university administration knew about these incidents and continued to cover them up for the sake of its brand is not only legally abysmal but morally sickening. The man rapes and sexual abuses child after child, and the administration responds by taking his keys away, like a customer at the bar who has had one too many to drink? Repulsive. Disgusting. Angering.

Why do these emotions well up within us when we hear of cases like this one? Is it not because God placed in us a sense of justice, a sense of nobility in protecting the most valuable rights of helpless young people? We understand the trauma and emotional scarring that will continue for the rest of those children’s lives, and subsequently we clench our fists at the perversion and corruption of a man who would inflict such lifelong distress.

If we experience such intense hatred of sin and longing for justice when we hear these stories, can you imagine what God’s heart must sense? We feel this way from time to time as we are informed of scandals. But God in his omnipotence sees every case of rape and abuse that ever has transpired and that is likely transpiring somewhere in the world as I type this sentence. If I were a father and I found out a man was sexually abusing one of my children, it would take an immense amount of God’s grace for me not to go to that man’s house and beat him senseless and to instead let the courts carry out justice. If we humans feel so passionately for the necessity of retribution, how much more is God’s holy anger kindled with every passing act of injustice?

One day all things will be made right. Either those horrific sins will be retroactively placed on Jesus through repentance, or violators will experience the full dose of God’s unrestrained anger. Can we propose a more just solution? I think not.

Psalm 140:12
“I know that the LORD secures justice for the poor and upholds the cause of the needy.”

Acts 17:30-32
“In the past God overlooked such ignorance, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent. For he has set a day when he will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed. He has given proof of this to all men by raising him from the dead.”

Leviticus 19:15
“Do not pervert justice; do not show partiality to the poor or favoritism to the great, but judge your neighbor fairly.”
(The administration should have heeded this one instead of favoring Sandusky for his status!)

Isaiah 1:17
“Learn to do right! Seek justice, encourage the oppressed. Defend the cause of the fatherless, plead the case of the widow.”

Advice for New “Collegers”

Posted: November 3, 2011 in Uncategorized

My little brother, Joel, used to call college students “collegers.” I like that. It sounds a little like “prisoners,” which is a fairly close description of us for four (or five or more) years of university. We’re taken captive with projects, papers, exams, and stress. Sometimes we look through the cell bars, wondering if we’ll ever escape to the outside world of careers and schedules that remain consistent for more than four months at a time.

But enough of that depressing talk! This is a guide for new “collegers” with some advice for how to best navigate this oft-mucky world of college. I’ll start off with some practical advice for making sure you stay on track to graduate on time, then we’ll cover some miscellaneous tips for being an excellent student, and lastly we’ll talk about how to keep your faith strong during all this chaos.

In no particular order:

1. If you’re not 110% sure what you want to major in, cover all your general electives before taking any major courses. Even if you end up having to take some harder major courses together in a later semester, that’s still better than taking classes that won’t count for anything if you decide to change majors. Most people do change majors at least once in college. Heck, I’ve been tempted to half-a-dozen times.

2. Try to decide on a major as early on as you can and stick with it. No matter what you major in and how passionate you are about something, you’re going to doubt your choice of major. Just choose a field you enjoy and can see yourself working in for a long time, preferably a field that pays decently, and stay with it. People tell you early on that you have awhile to think about it, but “awhile” comes in a flash once you start college, so start thinking hard!

3. Before every semester, go to an advisor to work out your classes. You may think you don’t need to if you just have a list of the classes you need in front of you, but advisors can help a lot. They know what classes can be substituted in what categories, what order you’ll want to take certain classes in, and a host of other useful information. They’ll help make sure you’re on track.

4. This is sort of a corollary to number 3. As useful as an advisor is, make sure you also work out everything yourself. Don’t depend on anyone to make sure you’re on track for graduating or that you’re taking the right classes. It’s best if you try to plan everything out and then go to an advisor to run everything by them to make sure you haven’t overlooked anything. I made this mistake and really got messed up in community college, which meant an extra semester to finish up two classes I could have fit into other semesters if I’d taken the time to plan.

5. Advisors will usually try to get you to only take 12 or 13 credits. Don’t listen to them, especially in community college, if you’re a good student. In particular, for your first few semesters, classes are easier, so you’ll probably want to take 5 classes or so. You can always check everything out the first few weeks, too, and just drop one if it looks like it’s going to be unbearable.

6. Always check Ratemyprofessors.com when you sign up for classes. Get the best professors you possibly can, even if it means a crappy schedule. You’re stuck with the professor for 15 weeks of your life. Save yourself the stress, boredom, anger, and bad grade; only take good professors if at all possible. Some people take worse professors because it fits into their schedule better, but I think it’s better to rearrange your schedule to your professors than the other way around.

7. Adding onto #6, you should know when to take easy professors. If you’re taking an elective that you’re not going to be building on (for example, an arts/humanities or behavior science class), take the easiest professor you can get (according to Ratemyprofessors.com or your friends’ suggestions). But if it’s a prerequisite for another class (e.g. for me, my math or computer science classes), you want a professor who teaches well but will make sure you learn the material.

8. If you do get stuck with a bad professor and you get a bad grade, don’t stress over it too much. Get all the help you can get. Take advantage of the free tutoring/help centers available at every college. But sometimes you just get dealt a bad professor and he/she’s the only one who teaches that class you’re required to take. It happens. Don’t worry.

9. If you’re a community college student like I was, and you’re planning on transferring to a 4-year university when you’re done, make sure you check that every class you take will transfer. Use ARTSYS before you sign up every semester. ARTSYS is a handy course equivalency program that will tell you what courses transfer to what institutions. It really stinks to take a class and find out it won’t even count once you transfer, wasting hours and hours of your life. Don’t let that happen. Take a little extra time to prepare.

10. I alluded to this in a previous tip, but lay out your goal for graduation from the outset. Figure out when you want to graduate, and split up the courses you need to take semester by semester. You don’t want to get surprised at the end with an extra class or two that you didn’t account for. Believe me, it’s worth the time up front.

 

Now, for some general tips on being a good student:

11. Don’t procrastinate. Believe me, I’m still learning this one. But I’m starting to get better with it, and it’s saving me a lot of stress. Set manageable goals for yourself. If you get assigned a massive semester-long paper and your professor doesn’t set deadlines along the way, make them yourself. Break it up into pieces. Decide on a time to do the research, then deadlines for a certain number of pages to have written by certain days. Getting started is usually the hardest part, so just give yourself a small goal for getting started, like writing the introductory paragraph or thesis. Start on assignments as soon as you get them. Do the easiest parts first, and give yourself time to mull over the harder parts. This becomes increasingly important as you get into your upper level classes, where you will not be able to crank out assignments even if you do pull an all-nighter before it is due. If you can beat procrastination, that will be, by far, your best tool in your academic toolbox.

12. Going along with #11, when you are working, set yourself small goals to keep from getting distracted. If your attention tends to get diverted by Facebook or TV, tell yourself you’re going to work until a certain time and then reward yourself with a little Facebook/TV time. 5 minutes per every 30-45 minutes tends to work well for me. Or, you can do the same thing with a certain amount of problems or pages you want to get done.

13. Sit in the front rows. That’s where all the smart kids sit. All the people who want to text and whisper to each other sit in the back rows.

14. Get to know at least one person in each class. Study with them. Be able to ask each other questions. Having somebody you can work with, especially in your more difficult classes, will prove invaluable. This is especially important in your major classes, since you may end up taking other classes with them.

15. Get to know your professor. This is more difficult if you’re at a larger university in lecture halls. But for your smaller classes, make a point to talk to your professor somehow. This way, they know your name and that you’re taking an interest in the class. Don’t underestimate how far this connection goes in not only your professor’s willingness to help you, but even your grading. Make small talk with your professor before or after class. Ask questions. Participate. Email questions. Anything you can do to show you care about doing well in the class will help.

 

Well this has ended up being a bit more time consuming than I anticipated, so I am going to take a break here. I hope this has been helpful! I will add more tips in this section as I think of them, and will continue another time with a new post on keeping your faith strong during college. Feel free to comment with anything you’ve found helpful for you in your college years.

I lost my 4.0 to an old German professor at UMBC last semester. I never even saw it coming. The semester started off as well as any other. My classes seemed challenging, but manageable at first: Here’s how things looked

Python Programming – Easy programming class. One of those classes you enjoy because you’ve already learned half the content before. I even skipped a few classes I knew I wouldn’t be losing out from with no problems.

Human Geography – Way too much material tested on for a low-level elective course. If you missed a single class, you’d be a goner come test-time. Good luck getting somebody to send you their notes in a class of 150. Writing projects were extremely tedious and grading harsh, but I can deal with time-consuming work. Swung out a low A after the curve.

Honors 200 – An honors seminar class on Race, Religion, and Gender. Constant heavy reading and an even heavier liberal bent (my professor was an old hippie type who described himself as a radical Marxist). Writing intensive course with 450 word essays on the long readings every week, plus a 12-15 page research paper at the end. Yet another time-consuming course, but I don’t mind writing too much, so I pulled out an A in the end.

Linear Algebra – Taught by an old German man named Florien who had a thick accent and an affinity for tangents about history. He would scribble theorems on the board and work out whole problems without turning around to face the class. For all 5 of my math courses at Harford Community College, Trigonometry through Calculus II, I had a wonderful professor named Chris. He explained every topic thoroughly and clearly. Chris is the kind of professor who makes you feel as if, by asking him a question or going to him for help outside of class, you’re making his day instead of imposing on his busy schedule. Because of Chris, I finally felt I was good at math, though still a little slower than most of my classmates. His German UMBC counterpart, however, was quite the contrary. He would show up five to fifteen minutes late to class every day and lecture unintelligibly. More than half the class never showed up or had dropped it a few weeks in. Of those remaining, half of them left once they turned in their homework and the professor turned around to absorb himself in the blackboard. An originally maxed-out room of 70+ people shrank to less than 20 survivors most days. I would read the book and bust my butt on the homeworks. I found a YouTube Channel with someone who actually taught Linear Algebra well and watched for hours to prepare for exams. But to no avail: My first exam was a 57, and the other two weren’t any better. Thanks to my homework grades and his course grading scale of 60+ as a C, I barely managed to balance out to a C overall in the class. Not the end of the world, right?

It was for me. Upon receiving my first exam grade of 57, my heart sank. I had never gotten a grade that low on any important test in college up to this point. For me, I took pride in the fact that my test scores were consistently in the A and B range, and congratulated myself on my President’s List letters. I enjoyed making subtle references to the fact that my tuition at Harford was covered by a writing scholarship and that I had never gotten anything besides an A in two years of college. I was at the pinnacle of my academic pride, and I’m so thankful God found a way to push me off.

See, when I got that grade back, I began despairing. What’s going to happen to my scholarship opportunities? What if I completely fail the course? What if this ends up setting me back in my graduation trajectory? What’s going to happen to my GPA? How are employers going to look at my GPA? My thoughts deteriorated from a concern over one class grade to an overall despairing outlook on my life and future. The immediate course of events was: Bad grade on exam -> Doubt God’s faithfulness.

In that moment, I could not see that God would allow a C to crush my self-reliance for a reason. Looking back now, I would have enjoyed crushing me because I now see how absorbed I was in my own abilities and grades.

But it’s as if God was saying, “Steve, I’m going to strip you of your 4.0 so you can see that your foundation is not in a university. I’m refining you by fire, and right now a lot of arrogance and independence is being burned up in the process. The straw of intelligence and performance you were building your house of hope on is being swept away by the storm. You need to place your hope and trust for the future entirely in me, not your grades, brains, work ethic, relationships, or anything else.

So now, I am completely failing my Data Structures class this semester and am going to have to retake it next, but it’s not the end of my world. I’m learning that UMBC is not Harford, and some classes are simply over my head. I’ve worked as hard as I can to succeed, but am failing. For a couple of weeks, my failing grade in that class began to sank me into a depression, even deeper than last semester.. But now I am being reminded that God did not disappear when I got a C. His faithfulness has never been blighted and his plans have never been thwarted by me or my grades.

As I drop the class and a ‘W’ shows up on my transcript, I will be at peace. I say this not to belittle the cost of tuition (which my parents so generously pay) or the importance of graduating ASAP. Even now, I continue to attend the lectures and work on the assignments to learn for next semester. But I do so with a heart at peace, resting in a comfort-giving God who cares more about my heart than my GPA.

“Those who know your name will trust in you, for you, LORD, have never forsaken those who seek you.” -Psalm 9:10