Sowing and Reaping Academic Success
I have more understanding than all my teachers,
For Your testimonies are my meditation.

Psalm 119:99


Wouldn’t it be great to experience the verse above? With the thought of going back to school, this verse comes to mind because it seems to fully capture what academic success might look like. This blog post isn’t just about what academics success looks like, but how to actually get there; how you can guarantee your academics success. How you can get closer to getting a 4.0. How you can raise your semester GPA by two points more than you had last semester. Sounds far-fetched, right?  Let’s see.

There’s a big problem though. Again, this blog post is supposed to reveal a practical way of achieving academic success. The problem is this though: if I were to tell you the steps to achieving academic success, would you actually follow the instructions given? Be honest and really think about it. All your life people may have told you what you need to do to be academically successful: go to class, study, don’t procrastinate, etc., etc. It is possible you have heard some things you need to do to be academically successful at least 5 times in your life. But the question is, “Out of all the times you’ve heard what you supposedly need to know, how many times did you obey or listen to what you were told?

If I told you what you needed to do to be academically successful would you actually listen and apply the advice? Most people hear what they need to do to be successful in school and then they don’t do as well as they want and then they begin to seek help and ask what they can do to succeed. The problem is what you need to do to succeed is not a secret. In fact, it's already been told to you maybe 100 times. The question is, did you actually do and will you actually do what’s necessary to be successful academically. Some people think, “This semester I’m not doing anything but school and the gym. Yea, that’s it, then I’ll get a 4.0.” The idea that ‘the less you have to do the better you will perform in school’ isn’t always the case and most of the time I’ve seen that fail.

My best semester in school was when I worked two jobs, had two prominent leadership positions, and took 19 credits with some of my major’s hardest classes. I was able to get straight A’s and a few A- that  semester and to this day, that’s been the best semester GPA I’ve had. Glory to God! God really graced me that semester. I didn’t take on such a heavy load that semester without asking God if He would sustain me through all of it. He told me to take on the challenge and I did. It was super hard and I sweated almost every step of the way, but I didn’t lose faith.

If I were to tell you what you needed to do to succeed academically, would you actually listen? Obedience to what is true is the key to succeeding. But what does that actually mean? Succeeding academically is not a secret because how people have been successful in the past is not hidden.  The verses below reveal how I’ve been able to be successful academically:


He that refuseth instruction despiseth his own soul: but he that heareth reproof getteth understanding

Proverbs 15:32


Give instruction to a wise man, and he will be yet wiser: teach a just man, and he will increase in learning.

Proverbs 9:9


Instruction is so important because it paves a way to a predetermined destination. “Huh, what does that mean?” Instruction is a structure or template for how you get in line with the goal you have set. If you want academic success, you have to simply get proper instruction. Not just get proper instruction, you must follow it.

The semester when I excelled, in spite of my busy schedule, was a combination of me hearing God daily and walking by faith. I literally had to ask God “I’m overwhelmed and I have many assignments, what do I do first?” Sometimes it was school work and other times it was to prayer and read my word and then get to school work right after. Sometimes I would have to help others with their problems spiritually, personally or academically before I did my own school work. The key here is that I didn’t do anything based on my own presumption or what I thought was best, but I asked God or moved based on what God instructed me to do at the time. As it is written:


Then answered Jesus and said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, The Son can do nothing of himself, but what he seeth the Father do: for what things soever he doeth, these also doeth the Son likewise.

John 5:19


But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.

Matthew 6:33


Obedience to instruction is key; obedience not just to God, but to your actual instructor. I ask my professors about how rigorous their class is and what a person would need to do in order to get an A in the class. I ask, “How I should study for the exams and assignments?” Because I ask, they instruct me. Their instruction is important because they are the instructor! The degree to which I obey their instruction as a master in the subject, is the degree to which I perform successfully in their class. They as teachers have mastered the materially to a certain level and I have to follow their protocol in order to secure my chances of performing well.

My main example is my Anatomy & Physiology 2 class during the semester when I took 19 credits and had straight A’s. My professor literally told the class on day one what we needed to do to get an A in the class. She said: study immediately after every class, study in groups of at least 3-4 people, use flash cards and a few other basics things like this. This was one of the hardest gateway courses into my major and yes, it was a weed out class with 400 people. I got an A on every exam, except for the deadly final on which I got a 79%. People always complained that this teacher was so hard and her class was unfair, but I had a great experience with her simply because I listened to her instruction. The reason why I got a 79% on the final was because the professor told us not to study the previous exams to prepare for the final because she would not use the same information over again. The class had so much material, but I thought she was jiving.

Here is the key: she gave instructions, but the degree to which I followed her instruction determined the degree of my success on the exam. Clearly, I got a 79. My obedience there wasn’t particularly on point, but I came out with an A in the class because I had sown obedience to her instruction for so long. I reaped my harvest in due season. You’ll reap yours too, if you walk by faith and obey the instructions and guidance of God every moment of your semester and the instructions of your professors too.


Oluwatobi (Tobi) Oke is a young entrepreneur from the University of Maryland College Park who is the CEO of Good Lord Clothing. He's the Vice President of Bethel Campus Fellowship and attends Hope Christian Church in Beltsville, Md. He shares the Gospel through rap music and plays the congos. He is working on his mixtape called “3 Days In The Grave” hopefully to be released fall 2015.

Preserving Your Fire

You know those points in your life where you feel like your river has run dry? You’ve been attending Christian events all summer, been maintaining your leadership roles, never missed church, and have been lending a listening ear to your friends more times than you can count. Yet still you feel this strong conviction to “come back to God.” You probably don’t really understand this conviction because you don’t think you’ve ‘left’ God, simply because you’ve been doing all these “Christian type” things. But in reality, He may be explaining to you that you are burning out, and need a little push to continue serving Him out there in your community. Pushes like these are needed, but when you constantly feel burnt out, you may need to reevaluate your personal walk with God. Are you consistently pursuing Him for the sake of your own spiritual being, or are you just doing what they call ‘church’? Are you not sure how to balance your ministry work and personal walk with God?

Here are two simple steps to push you in the right direction:

Push yourself to start your day off with God

Of course this is the most important, yet most overlooked, step that Christians need in order to cultivate a fruitful relationship with God. It could be that the only time we seem to remember to pray is if we’re on a conference call praying for an upcoming event. Even if you are a leader of a ministry or a newborn Christian, it is okay, and very important, to pray for yourself. It’s easier said than done when you’re more focused on all the things you need to get done. Especially when the first thing you check is the thousands of unread messages from your leadership GroupMe(s). As redundant as it sounds, it is very true that starting off your day by committing it to Jesus will guarantee you a less stressful day than if you don’t. Just talk to God. Tell Him your plans for the day and ask Him what He has planned for you today, and today only (Matthew 6:34). Ask Him what you’ve been dying to know about Him, or how to go about certain things you go through in your everyday life. Ask Him to teach you new things throughout the day. Simple things like this can bring you into deeper intimacy with God.

Wind Down and Go where God leads you

Sometimes we get so wrapped up in our ministry work, we don’t even realize that at some points we have stopped flowing out of relationship and intimacy, but simply out of obligation. Let’s look at the story in Luke 10:38-42, when Jesus went to the home of Martha and her sister, Mary. Martha was busy serving and preparing a meal for Jesus, while Mary chose to lay at his feet and fellowship with him. Jesus told Martha that she is “worried and troubled about many things” (Luke 10:41).  In some instances in ministry, we become like Martha, trying to quickly handle all our responsibilities at once, that we become easily troubled by the many things that we have to do. Yes, ministry work can sometimes be difficult, but it is more challenging when we toil to get it done. If you are in this predicament, it’s time to slow down and seek the Lord’s face. Ask yourself, “Who and what am I doing this for? What type of heart do I have towards serving?” If the answers are because you feel obligated, ask God for redirection and rest until He gives you the go ahead. It is not our job to stress and worry about what is to be done, but it is our job to trust that God knows best.  


“But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.”

Isaiah 40:31


We often take on responsibilities that we are not called to do. This leads to more toiling. When Jesus was calling one man to be his disciple, the man said, “First, let me go bury my Father.” Jesus then answers, “Let the dead bury the dead. Follow me” (Luke 9:59-60). Who really knows why he wanted to wait to bury his father before he went to become a disciple, but Jesus knew that he should be following Him instead. It is much more difficult to handle your ministry work when you’re doing it without God’s grace. You do not need to attend every event or be apart of every leadership team for the sake of it. If God is not leading you, don’t force yourself to go! Talk to God and ask Him where you are called to lead, serve, and attend. These are the times where it is okay to say, “I’ll pray about it” when asked to take on a new role in ministry. Trust me, this will save you so much drama and unneeded stress.

The main ingredient in preserving your fire is to simply put God first. Remember why you’re doing all this! You are doing this to serve the Creator, to bring heaven on Earth, to do His will, and because you love Him. It is all for Him. Once ministry begins to flow out of intimacy from your personal relationship with God, you will never have to worry about being burnt out or losing your zeal. As God cares more about our relationship with Him than how many leadership titles we have, so should we.


For I desire steadfast love and not sacrifice, the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings.

Hosea 6:6


Saved...Ish

Hi, my name is Deb and I have a problem remembering that I am a saved.

*Hiiiiiiiiiii Debbbbbbbbb*

Tell me I’m not the only one? Who worries like the world worries, tries to “relieve stress” like the world does, or simply tries to fit in as if God didn’t create you to be set apart?

I thought there was something wrong with me. After I got saved four years ago, God spent a good amount of time opening my eyes and revealing my sin, His saving grace, and how to walk with Him. It was the hardest, most influential time of my life. I learned more about myself and God than I had ever even thought I could. I felt like how the Israelite felt as soon as they crossed the Red Sea, I was feeling myself for real, like, “What’s the world to a new believer like me?” alla dat. I was quoting scripture hard and knew all words to the recent P4CM poems...

Y’all know I was about to get humbled.

It was one day, in the midst of my own busy-ness with school and people and work and graduating and life, that I just…forgot I was saved. Now, we know that being a true believer in the world is like trying being a thriving tree in the desert...it doesn’t exist. Everywhere I was, people were living life according to what they knew, but I knew Jesus. Somehow I found myself mimicking the same things I saw them doing, as if I didn’t know there was a whole Yahweh, a whole Jehovah looking at me like “What is my daughter doing?” Now I know y’all are probably like, “Whoa, she’s trippin. She forgot?! How can that happen?,” but I challenge you to look into your own life for a second.

What is the first thing you do when life gets hard? Do you go to straight to God, or do you go to two or three friends and then go to Him? Or what about when you’re stressed and your friends want to go out to the bar after a long day, do you go just to get a lil sippy sip too, instead of looking for peace in the Word? Just to ease your mind and complain about all the terrible things that happened instead of praying?

Or what about when you’re tight on money so you think, “God won’t mind if I don’t tithe this time around, He knows my heart and my bank account.”

Whenever you find yourself lacking or just struggling, where do you go?

It doesn’t seem like a big deal when we look to other things before we look to God since they are just tiny little situations. But God wants us to come to Him in everything.


Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Philippians 4:6-7


But when we begin to compromise His standards for our comfort and convenience, instead of remembering that He calls us to look to Him first, in everything, we begin to operate like those who have never had an encounter with God.

It was only by the grace of God that the Holy Spirit  was convicting me, telling me to check myself and when He did, He led me here:


 “Little children, you are from God and have overcome them [aka those situations pulling you from Him], for he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world.”

1 John 4:4


“And you were dead in the trespasses and sins  in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.  But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses,made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus”

Ephesians 2:1-6


The Holy Spirit had to snap me out of the pit I was falling into because sooner or later, if I had continued in walking like the “sons of disobedience,” I would have become lukewarm.  We know what God does to those who are lukewarm (Revelations 3:15-16). The Holy Spirit was warning me that I was going back to my old ways of living, reminding me of Proverbs 26:11:


“Like a dog that returns to its vomit, is a fool who repeats his folly.”


I was acting how I was before I got saved! And more than it hurt God, it hurt me. He showed me through my continued stress and anxiety with work, feelings of unworthiness, and seeking and never being filled by things like alcohol, TV shows, and going out that I would never be satisfied, because my spirit man was craving something so much more: Him.

I got too comfortable spending basically no time with God. Not reading my Word, praying to Him, worshiping Him, or just talking about Him, my heart was hardening towards Him and my environment didn’t help either, but it’s no excuse. We must resist in the things of the world and cling to God, because its the only way we can survive. As you guys can see, the world is getting worse day by day, and it is up to us, the Church, to be guarded up in the Spirit so that any nonsense the devil throws our way can just bounce of our armor (Ephesians 6:11-24) so that we may be preaching the Word, making disciples, and waiting for Christ to come back.

So I encourage you to remember these verses if you ever find yourself sinning and not repenting, or looking to other things before you go to Him.


Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!

2 Corinthians 5:17


 

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

1 John 1:9


And if you ever get discouraged, remember 2 Peter 1:3-8; 10

His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to His own glory and excellence, by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire. For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ...Therefore, brothers, be all the more diligent to confirm your calling and election, for if you practice these qualities you will never fall.”

 

Four Times We Entertained Sin

For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body ruled by sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin

Romans‬ ‭6‬:‭6‬ NIV

In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus. Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires. Do not offer any part of yourself to sin as an instrument of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer every part of yourself to him as an instrument of righteousness. For sin shall no longer be your master, because you are not under the law, but under grace.

Romans‬ ‭6‬:‭11-14‬ NIV


The day I said yes to Jesus was beautiful. It really was.  In a second, sin was rendered powerless over  me and my old nature was stripped away. In the next second, the Holy Spirit came upon me and I was empowered to fight against sin. But since that glorious day, I’ve realized that there are times where I wasn’t walking in my empowerment to fight sin. I was actually entertaining it as opposed to really rebuking it out of my life . I can’t be alone, right? Can you relate?


Here are four times we have entertained sin

1. When You Drank

Yes, technically, biblically, there aren’t any scriptures that clearly states that Believers can’t take a little sippy sip. Believe me, I looked. You probably thought,

So I am free to drink.”

No.


Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit.

Ephesians 5:18


The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; 20 idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions 21 and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.

Galatians 5:19-21


So what’s the issue?

If getting drunk leads to a sin, why would it be okay to even drink in the first place?  This is where you’ve entertained the sin. You engaged in  drinking, but not enough for it to manifest into drunkenness. You participated in drinking, however, you stopped before you reaped the consequence of sin: drunkenness.

Even when you drank Martinelli, you could have possible entertained sin. Many believers treat Martinelli, aka overpriced apple cider, as the “Christian alternative” to the turn up. Tell me I’m lying. In reality, this is a non alcoholic beverage, but in our hearts, we react to it the same way we would if we were engaging in drinking alcohol. That’s when we have turned ordinary apple cider into an idol, and it has become a sin. Remember sin is conceived in the heart, before it is birthed in the physical.


It is not for kings, Lemuel—   

   it is not for kings to drink wine,

   not for rulers to crave beer,

lest they drink and forget what has been decreed,

   and deprive all the oppressed of their rights.

Let beer be for those who are perishing,

   wine for those who are in anguish!

Let them drink and forget their poverty

   and remember their misery no more.

Proverbs 31:4-7


Wine is a mocker and beer a brawler;

   whoever is led astray by them is not wise.

Proverbs 20:1


2. When You Kissed

Yes, I know, again, there is no scriptures stating you can’t kiss. Once again, I’ve checked. I kid.

We can agree that kissing is a sexual act. Right? I mean, you don’t go around kissing anybody and I’m sure you wouldn’t want your significant other to be thinking they can kiss anybody else. Let’s go to the scriptures for biblical reference on this matter.


 


You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.  But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.

Matthew 5:27-28


Jesus, you know the guy we all aim to be like, was telling the crowd, that although the law states you shouldn’t commit adultery, adultery starts from within the heart. He was saying that adultery can happen in the physical, as well as the  spiritual.

Let’s apply this to a real life situation. Let’s say two individuals (1 man and 1 woman) engaged in kissing. Question: Did lust come before or after the kiss? Lust came before, therefore, kissing was the manifestation of the lust. Kissing was the fruit bore from the seeds of lust. You see before you act, you must first conceive the thought in your heart to give birth to the act. Thinking precedes acting.


And we all know kissing leads to other things :)

3. When You Used Replacement Words

Believers are known for speaking a language unknown to others. Besides tongues, we speak Christianese. We have nice, encouraging phrases that sound pleasing to the ear, but when used in a rude manner with intent to harm, can be considered equal to a curse word.


Take for instance, a brother or sister in Christ rubbed you the wrong way. Naturally, you would be upset or taken back by their actions. Boiling with emotions, you wouldn’t curse them out. No, that’s not Christ-like. So what do you do? You respond back with “I’ll pray for you,”  “You’re blessed,” “Praise God for your life,” or any Christianese saying that you can conjure up. Although it sounds nice and caring, we all know your intent when saying it. You planned to harm the person in your heart. As oppose to harboring bitterness in your heart, be mature and address the issue then and there or as soon as possible, in a godly manner. No need to suppress the emotions and disguise them for what they aren’t. Let your yes be yes and your no be no.

4. When You Watched An Inappropriate Movie & Show

We don’t partake in sexual intercourse outside the covenant of marriage. Simple fact that everyone is aware of, not really a secret. However, that doesn’t stop most of us from thinking about it. You see, sometimes, in the battle for our purity, we don’t fight. We enable the enemy to plant seeds of lust and sexual immorality in our minds. The number one way they plant seeds: what we let our eyes see. The eyes are gateways to the body.


The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are healthy, your whole body will be full of light.

Matthew 6:22 NIV


Now, if you are feeding your eyes things that aren’t holy and pure, don’t be surprised when it starts to bear fruits in your life. This is where you entertained sin. Yes, you aren’t partaking in sex, but watching entertainment that offers sex scenes, allows you to see sexual acts take place, without you engaging in them. Does that sound familiar? It sort of sounds like porn. Soft porn, but porn nonetheless. Don’t entertain this. Fight this and fight for your purity.


So in the battle with sin, remember Jesus won the battle when He rendered sin powerless on the cross. But also remember not to entertain it. Give sin no leeway in your life and discern all appearances of evil.


If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must rule over it.

Genesis 4:7  (NIV)

 

Therefore,

“Come out from them

   and be separate,

says the Lord.

Touch no unclean thing,

   and I will receive you.”

2 Corinthians 6:17