|A screenshot from one of our Deep Dive teachings. More on that below! (Also, notice how professional my slides are)|
“When Jesus had again crossed over by boat to the other side of the lake,
a large crowd gathered around him while he was by the lake.
Then one of the synagogue leaders, named Jairus, came,
and when he saw Jesus, he fell at his feet.
He pleaded earnestly with him, “My little daughter is dying.
Please come and put your hands on her so that she will be healed and live.”
So Jesus went with him.”
Mark 5:21-24 (NIV)
“All this I have spoken while still with you.
But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name,
will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.
Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you.
I do not give to you as the world gives.
Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”
Here are two pieces of Scripture, from two different Gospels, describing two different situations. In one, a religious authority is desperately pleading with Jesus to save his little daughter’s life.
In another, Jesus is promising that the Father will send an Advocate (your translation may render this as Counselor or Helper) to the disciples.
In one, a man falls at the feet of the Divine and asks for help.
In another, the Divine comes down to men (and women) and offers them help.
And somehow, “pleaded” and “Advocate” come from the same root word in the Greek- parakleo. I care about this because Brandon, the director of FOCUS and a friend and mentor of mine, recently (at the Advocate’s suggestion) put that word in my hands and told me to learn what it means and seek to become it. And apparently, this particular word applies to an aid, a counselor, a lawyer, and a desperate beggar.
One explanation (https://bit.ly/2Ggc4fD) reads: “Parakaleo can include the idea of giving help or aid but the primary sense in the NT is to urge someone to take some action, especially some ethical course of action. Sometimes the word [conveys] the idea of comfort, sometimes of exhortation, but always at the root there is the idea of enabling a person to meet some difficult situation with confidence and with gallantry.”
It’s amazing that one word could contain so much humility and yet so much boldness as to encapsulate all of these things.
How is the Spirit doing this with you?
How can you do this with others?
Ministry During COVID
While I won’t bore you with all of the details of which buildings are open and which ones aren’t, which weeks have been fruitful and which ones have been frustrating, I will say this: God has been very obviously at work this year!
Despite the uncertainty and restraint of a pandemic, we have been able to meet new people, and there are a fair number of freshmen who are in our cores (small groups), being discipled and bringing their own discipleship to the table. People are being staggeringly open with one another- pushing to allow God to work on every part of their hearts. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve come away from a conversation with someone and thought: God was working there. I’ve seen God give me an idea for a question to ask or a Scripture to discuss, and then seen how He has used it to very specifically minister to the guys I’m talking to. I’ve seen Him do this for other people.
He’s at work!
That being said, there have been harder times. Trying to map out the Venn diagram of state laws, federal recommendations, university regulations, the call of the Gospel, the Great Commission, and the call to protect others has been very exhausting at times. We definitely need prayer as we seek to be faithful and fruitful.
When we were planning what to do as a large community, we had to face the fact that we can hardly do anything physically as a large community. We had spent the past several months (from March to mid July) attempting to recreate our normal services (worship, sermon, fellowship, etc.) in a streamed format, and had found that in doing so we weren’t embracing the situation we were in.
We decided this semester to do something together that we could only do during a time like this. Something centered around deep learning and reflection. So we started Deep Dive- an hour a week, a chapter a week of going through the Gospel of Mark in a way that engaged the heart and mind as much as possible (given the time constraints).
And because of the busy schedules of the other pastors at UTD, this teaching time became my responsibility. Getting to dig into a single book of the Bible (a small one, at that!) and think through how to teach it has been immensely rewarding. I again get to sort through the complicated Venn diagram of commentaries, sermons, classes, books, academia, campus ministry, etc.. We have students from all sorts of backgrounds- ones who have read the Bible cover-to-cover multiple times, and ones who have only heard bits and pieces in passing.
I’ve been amazed at the extent to which our students have engaged with the material. In a lot of ways, Mark’s two main goals are to get us to look at Jesus and to get us to look at ourselves, and I’ve seen our students doing both of those things.
Spotlight - Nhala
There are 6 corefas (core facilitators) who I have the pleasure of mentoring and walking alongside this year, and I’d like to give each of them some space on a ministry update so you can see the kind of students I get to disciple and learn from.
The first is Nhala (pictured above). Nhala came from a Christian family in the Philippines, and moved to America after high school. He is pure-hearted, sincere, and attentive. We usually wears a smile and always wears a hat. This is his first year leading a core, and God is teaching him to pair his genuine heart with insight and boldness as he goes through the ups and downs of discipleship.
- God has been very faithful to protect our students from the pandemic so far- please pray that he continues to do so.- Pray for our students and pastors to learn to think like Jesus and approach problems the way God would want us to as we navigate a confusing and contentious political season.- Pray for consistency from the students who are in our small groups and Bible studies, and openness from the ones who are not yet in one.