|During Spring Showcase, I had the privilege of performing an original song with a FOCUS student named Hannah (SUPER talented, but unfortunately not in this picture) and a FOCUS grad named Chiazo (right-hand side in the picture above). More on what made that meaningful below!|
"I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener.
He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit,
while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful.
You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you.
Remain in me, as I also remain in you.
No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine.
Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me."
John 15:1-3 (NIV)
I wanted to start out with a HUGE thank-you to everyone who came to Spring Showcase to help us send our students to SICM! (If you're not familiar with Showcase, I have failed you, but also you can look at my previous month's blog post for more information). It was definitely a success, and such a joy to take part in.
A couple of friends and I had the honor of getting to perform a song we had written specifically for the Showcase, and it was such a blast to do. Normally, that's not the kind of thing I would write about in a ministry blog, but this song ended up becoming an exploration of the ways in which God works in our hearts and in our spirits to renew them. I think it captures a lot of the ways God has worked to change me since I've started following Him. If you're interested in that, you can read those lyrics here.
Lately, I think God has been growing me and pushing me in a few ways.
Wednesday, April 10, 2019
Tuesday, March 5, 2019
Tuesday, February 12, 2019
Our students worshiping at Winter Camp. It's amazing to see so many people from so many college campuses pursuing God.
"When the Lord saw that he had gone over to look,
God called to him from within the bush, 'Moses! Moses!'
And Moses said, 'Here I am.'"
Exodus 3:4 (NIV)
"But Moses said to God, 'Who am I
that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?'
And God said, 'I will be with you.'"
Exodus 3:11-12a (NIV)
Have you ever felt like God gave you a New Year's resolution?
You're getting ready for the year, thinking about the things you want to accomplish, the kind of person you want to be (if you're like me, these ambitions are well outside reality). Then you talk to God about it, and He says: "presence," and you think to yourself: "what?"
That seems to be one of the main ways I see God's Spirit guiding my growth. He knows my heart much better than I do, and often that means He will lay something on my heart that I have not yet realized I need to be thinking about and growing in. As I entered this semester, I've been pushed to think through the idea of presence a lot more. What does it look like for me to truly be present when I'm with people? Jesus says he will be with us always, and promises to send the Spirit to live in us- what does it look like to live in light of that?
It's hard to really be where you are, and to be aware that God is really there too!
So Much Preachin'
This semester has started off a bit differently from most for me. Brandon (the FOCUS director, and now my direct supervisor) wanted to give me more "reps" with sermons so I could get more comfortable preaching. So, I've already gotten to preach twice this semester, and I'm going to get to preach again this week!
If you ever want to be really, really challenged by a sermon, write one. Nothing brings conviction quite as much as preaching what you believe is true in front of a bunch of people and then realizing how much your life doesn't match up with that afterwards. We've been talking about prayer in our sermons lately, and it's really challenged me to grow my prayer life more intentionally.
Here are links to the sermons if you want to listen!
Alone time with God...together!
|This is what happens when you want to capture a moment, but don't want to distract people from what they're doing.|
One of the most common complaints among Christians seems to be: "I want to spend more time with God, but I'm always tired, distracted, restless, busy, etc.!"
Last semester, Brandon shared a blog post from a woman named Shannon who does campus ministry in Washington with an organization called Campus Christian Fellowship (we work with them quite a bit) in which she shared about having personal devotional time in quiet spots on campus, and inviting students to do the same with her.
So I've started spending an hour a day in the library from Tuesday to Friday, having quiet devotional time with God, and inviting students to do the same. Most of the time, we're just quietly in Scripture and in prayer while sitting together, but sometimes good discussions will come up. A lot of people in our community are reading through Acts, so that's given us a lot to share about with one another.
- Please be praying for our next generation of student leaders. In May, we have a leadership conference called the Student Institute of Campus Ministry, in which we send our most faithful young disciples to CCF in Washington to learn how to be missionaries on their campuses. Raising money and coordinating for that is a lot of work, and my hope is that these students begin to have a vision for the kinds of disciple-makers they can be.
- I've recently started studying the Bible with an international student who has a Jainist background, but is very open to conversations about religion and philosophy. Please be praying for openness, wisdom, and God's hand to be at work in all of it.
Wednesday, January 9, 2019
|Our house threw a New Year's Eve party, and three guys from my junior year core showed up! From left to right: Andrew, [Me], Bogdan, and Stephen|
"As long as it is day, we must do the works of him who sent me.
Night is coming, when no one can work."
John 9:4 (NIV)
"Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise,
making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil."
Ephesians 5:15-16 (NIV)
“The smallest act of kindness is worth more than the grandest intention.”
Before the semester ended last month, Sirak (my ministry supervisor) and I met up to talk about how the semester had been for me as a staff member for FOCUS. I asked what his biggest growth goal for me was, and he said: "I want you to turn ideas into actions."
He said this because he knew that no amount of creativity and excitement and ministry can replace discipline. I am notorious for coming up with ideas for helpful habits, conversations, and events for our students, but not going through with most of them. Over the break, I was reading a book by Gordon MacDonald called Ordering Your Private Life, and in it, he quoted an excerpt of William Barclay commenting on Samuel Coleridge:
"He lost himself in visions of work to be done, that always remained
to be done. Coleridge had every poetic gift but one- the gift of
sustained and concentrated effort...
...No one ever reached any eminence, and no one having reached
it ever maintained it, without discipline."
Discipline is obvious in the life of anyone worth imitating- especially Jesus. Imagine the discipline it would have taken to heal people one-by-one, late into the night, and then wake up before sunrise to pray! This kind of discipline- or lack thereof- is what I've spent time reflecting on over the last few weeks.
What have I been up to during the holidays?
I've gotten to spend a lot more time with family than I usually do, which was a huge blessing! I'm very thankful to have a generous, supportive family that loves God. The more people I get to know, the more I realize just how unusual that is.
A handful (is 78 a handful?) of people from FOCUS at UTD read through the Gospel of Luke over Christmas Break, answering the question: "what is God's will for my life?" For the past 24 days (there are 24 chapters in Luke), I've been posting to a Facebook group to share my thoughts from that day's chapter. This has been so good for me (and for a lot of us), and I'm currently working on more ways for our community to spend time in Scripture together.
One thing that has forced me to grow in discipline is working on music. I've used music as a way to decompress and work through my relationship with God for 7 years now, and over the last few years, God has nudged me more and more towards sharing that with people. Last month, I rented an AirBnb with a friend named Akwasi to record some of the music we had been writing together.
Thursday, December 13, 2018
|A group photo from our last UTD campus ministers' reception. I was so challenged by the dedication to the Gospel that all of these men and women demonstrated. Some of these people have been doing campus ministry longer than I've been alive, and they seem to have only grown more passionate!|
“I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.
The hired hand is not the shepherd and does not own the sheep.
So when he sees the wolf coming, he abandons the sheep and runs away.
Then the wolf attacks the flock and scatters it.
The man runs away because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep."
John 10:11-13 (NIV)
"Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season;
correct, rebuke and encourage--with great patience and careful instruction."
2 Timothy 4:2
The thought of my job and my passion being one and the same seemed almost too good to be true! When God called me into ministry, that vision became a reality. It's a crazy blessing to get to do campus ministry as a full-time career. But I've learned this semester that this blessing can become a pitfall. God has been showing me my tendency to seek to placate the desires of my supervisors and bosses, rather than pour myself out for others. I remember meeting with Ronnie Worsham (see some of my early apprenticeship blogs for more on the amazing man of God that he is), and telling him how refreshing it was to spend time with people who I wasn't expected to mentor, and who I wasn't reporting to as a part of my job. He responded: "I understand what you're saying, but you're always a disciple." A tough reminder, but an important one. God also brought this lesson home when Brandon, the director of UTD FOCUS, assigned me to preach "a challenging sermon on discipleship." I was reminded of how much Jesus truly calls us to sacrifice in order to follow him (hint: if you're looking for a certain amount, you're missing the point). (https://anyfocus.org/media/never-underestimate/ to listen to that sermon)
In a week or so, most of the students I meet with on a regular basis will be back at their parents' houses with their families, and my "job" will go on hold for a couple of weeks. However, as I talk to God about the break, I get the sense that He's calling me to love my family more intentionally than I have in the past.
"Repent and believe the good news." No sphere of life is off-limits for the Spirit's work.
|Adam and Luke have been a huge blessing to meet with this semester. This is a silly photo of them sitting on some furniture in a parking garage.|
God's taught me so much through meeting with the guys in my peer team this semester. One extra praise-worthy thing from more recently: a guy in Adam and Luke's core (small group) went from being distant from Jesus and afraid of getting to know him to wanting to follow God and be baptized! The transformation in this guy's relationship with God (and subsequently, his life) has been amazing.
Other Great Humans
|Sirak Asfaw was on FOCUS staff when I came into UTD as a freshman. I remember playing basketball with him when I was 17, and absolutely WRECKING him with my superior skills.|
He's challenged me so much this year to turn interactions with people into loving, prayerful insights, to turn ideas into actions, and to do all of it for God's glory instead of my own.
|Drew Cleveland was the second person I led core with- my junior year. Here he is, wearing my glasses and looking better in them than I do. |
Our friendship has been a mixture of 10-year-old boy stuff (riding scooters, going to trampoline parks, laughing at everything) and the understanding, challenge, openness, and dedication of a long-lasting spiritual friendship. Also, I was the best man at his wedding, and his encouraging note to me at his wedding was better than my best man speech. Drew is doing the apprenticeship this year, and he's already being used by God to minister to our staff and our whole community at UTD in so many ways.
Finally, y'all have impacted me! The financial help, prayer, and encouraging messages from my supporters have continued to be something I quite literally could not do this without.
An additional thank-you to everyone who gave to KFG! We raised $75,000 in one week!!!
Tuesday, November 6, 2018
|[Most of] our UTD staff at the Halloween party FOCUS put on for the campus. From left to right: Sarah, Abbie, Emily, an ugly rendition of The Hulk (me), Jesse Bales, Drew, Darby, and Jessie Wang. These people have been a huge blessing to work with!|
"But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven,
but beat his breast and said, 'God, have mercy on me, a sinner!'"
- Luke 18:13
"At Sunday worship, as in every dimension of our existence,
many of us pretend to believe we are sinners.
Consequently, all we can do is pretend to believe we have been forgiven."
- Brennan Manning, The Ragamuffin Gospel
This school year, God has probably grown me most in my ability to observe people. So much of ministry is about helping people look at themselves through an honest lens as they learn to look at God through an honest lens. Having Sirak Asfaw as my supervisor in ministry this year has probably contributed a lot to this- the man asks questions about my life that I've never thought to ask.
Recently, I had multiple meetings with guys in a row in which I felt like they couldn't see any of the ways they could be growing, but I could see 50. Before starting my time with a couple of student leaders, I felt God lay the story of the Pharisee and the tax collector on my heart. "Oh, that'll be good for them," I thought. "Thank You for showing me how to minister to them, God." That night, I realized why God was reminding me of that story- and it wasn't for them. God was reminding me that I couldn't "graduate from the Gospel," and that when I tried to ignore my ugliness and my sin, I was also ignoring God's grace for me. Ronnie Worsham, the pastor of Northeast Church, often says "we can't appreciate the good if we don't process the bad."
Meeting More People!
Wednesday, October 10, 2018
“He who has ears to hear, let him hear.”
"My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this:
Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry..."
"Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says."
In my short time doing ministry, I've learned that although time and money are very important resources, our attention and attentiveness are just as important. It's very possible to go meet with people, execute a planned Bible study, say some prayer at God, get home, say hi to roommates, rinse, and repeat. What God has been reminding me is that when it's your "job" to spend time with someone and help move them onto God's agenda, it's deceptively easy to fool yourself into thinking you're loving that person and truly being attentive to who they are. And what's scarier- when it's your "job" to talk about God, it's deceptively easy to fool yourself into thinking you're loving Him and listening to Him. What God has been reminding me of is that He has something to say and that people are precious to Him.
Often August and September are so full of going out and meeting new people that you don't get to spend as much time studying the Bible with people as you normally would. However, this month I've gotten to spend a lot more time in the Word with guys from my peer team. We've been looking at the urgency of Jesus' ministry along with the images of God's movement in redemptive history in Mark, examining our hearts more closely and looking at what it actually means to love God with all our heart, soul, and mind (Matt 22), and more.
Also, I've gotten to start studying the Bible with a freshman at UTD who works at a tea shop that I go to regularly. For the sake of anonymity, we'll call him a name from the Bible...how about Maher-Shalal-Hash-Baz? My friend Maher grew up in church, but his family stopped going when he was around 10 years old. He's asked really good questions about Scripture and the story of the Bible, as well as who Jesus really is, and it's been an enormous encouragement.
We also just finished preaching through the metanarrative of Scripture at our larger Friday Night Fellowship meetings, and I had the pleasure of preaching on God's promises of heaven, the resurrection, and a redeemed relationship with other, Creation, and God Himself. (https://anyfocus.org/media/how-does-the-story-end/ if you'd like to listen yourself!)