Wednesday, July 31, 2019
|People worshipping God at Teen Camp. More on that below.|
But seriously, amidst all of the lessons on prayer, justice, honesty, patience, forgiveness, Law, etc., etc., etc., I find myself forgetting to look at Jesus. Ronnie Worsham, my pastor, my boss's dad, and one of my mentors, often says: "the whole Old Testament is designed to get us to the conclusion: Jesus is Lord." That's so true.
Recently, I read a book called What if Jesus Had Never Been Born? that explored the historical impacts of Jesus' legacy on human rights, education, and technology. As silly as it sounds, it seems like we really owe much of the rights we take for granted not to technology or philosophy, but to a homeless Jewish man who was given by his own people to be executed.
How often do I try to become a better person by asking the question: "Who do I feel like I need to be?" rather than by first imagining Jesus asking me the question: "Who do you say I am?"
Time with Friends
Tuesday, June 25, 2019
|Our staff eating together at our end-of-year staff dinner. Thank you to Drew Cleveland for letting me steal this picture (he doesn't know I stole it).|
"The Lord is my Shepherd, I lack nothing.
He makes me lie down in green pastures,
He leads me beside quiet waters,
He refreshes my soul."
- Psalm 23:1-3
Or have you ever had the opposite experience? I remember when I played basketball in high school, I could go jogging for several minutes before feeling out of breath. It's obviously much harder to get to that place in my old age, but I remember that feeling fondly.
Something I didn't realize until about 4 minutes ago is that it is very, very difficult to change your lungs' capacity for air. The reason we don't get out of breath when we exercise is that we are training our hearts to more efficiently pump blood (and oxygen) to our organs and muscles.
This reminds me a lot of our spiritual wellbeing. God has been bringing this quote from Psalm 23 to life for me a lot in the last few months:
"He refreshes my soul."From what I've read and heard (I am far from a Hebrew scholar), the word for "soul" here- nephesh- is synonymous with someone's breath, passion, personhood, and being. God has been showing me that, while He gives us countless ways of finding rest and enjoyment in His Creation and in His people, He is ultimately the one who restores our being itself. Rikk Watts says: "Until such a time as we know the I Am, we can never truly be."
This summer, God has been refreshing and restoring my soul. My time working for FOCUS has been a time of constant transition- I moved houses 4 times in the first year, I've gone from a student to an apprentice to a senior staff member (transitioning between very different campuses each time), and in doing so, I've had the blessing of meeting and getting to know a lot of people. That being said, I've also learned to package my personality so I can get to know those people a lot more, and I've learned to share my sins, hopes, fears, and experiences with God with a lot more people. That grew me a lot, but it also meant that I became exhausted at a soul-level. This summer, God has refreshed the part of me that my capacity for healthy compassion, regret, hope, and sadness comes from. The sure-footed security of Jesus shows me that when we fully entrust ourselves to God- including our identity itself- He stewards our souls better than we ever could (we probably have more of a habit than we realize of out-sourcing the development of our personality and character to our surroundings).
Now, back to the whole exercise metaphor. I'm pondering- and perhaps you've pondered this too- what it looks like to get in better shape spiritually. To improve our ability to breathe God in when life gets hectic. As I've begun to have more responsibilities in the last few years, I've begun to have much more sympathy for the parent who struggles with their prayer life, and for the friend who works 80 hours a week and doesn't seem to have as many interests as my friends in college (go figure!). I'm realizing that as the treadmill of life speeds up, I'm going to have to be very purposeful in spiritual cardio so that the breaths I take of God refresh my soul the way they did when I was a junior in college who lived at home and worked 8 hours a week.
To my friends and donor-friends who are in the thick of life, just know that I have enormous respect for you, and God understands how difficult it is to grow in character and closeness with Him while your capacity is being tested. I also believe more than ever that God is in the business of refreshing souls, and that He can rebuild even the most burnt-out, "over it" person there is. I'm praying that you can be refreshed by God amidst the busyness of life.
In the interest of my time and yours, I'm going to lump my ministry updates in with my prayer requests this month.
- Please pray for wisdom and receptiveness to God's voice for our staff and our students as we select and begin developing our student leaders for the upcoming school year.
- Our UTD staff are wrapping up the process of nailing down our core leaders for the upcoming school year. There's a good number of student leaders for the coming year (I think around 30 guy leaders?), and I'm excited about all of them.
- Please pray for our students who don't have access to their FOCUS community throughout the summer.
- A lot of our students move back home, graduate, or begin working full-time jobs during the summer, and it can be really difficult to find the stability, accountability, and spiritual food of community when they suddenly don't have the small groups and Bible-studies that they did the previous month.
- Please pray for our summer FOCUS services to be impactful and meaningful to our students, and to point them to Jesus.
- This summer, our Thursday Night Fellowship services are centered around the idea of being a lifelong disciple outside the college setting. That's such an important topic because college is a uniquely fertile environment for ministry and spiritual growth; it's a blessing to find that, and it's hard to leave it.
Thursday, May 23, 2019
|Our group of UTD students at the Student Institute of Campus Ministry (SICM) this year, teeeeechnically standing in Canada (about 50 feet from the border).|
"Those who live according to the flesh have their
minds set on what the flesh desires; but those who live
in accordance with the Spirit have their minds
set on what the Spirit desires."
Romans 8:5 (NIV)
"When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them,
because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd."
Matthew 9:36 (NIV)
Do you have any interests that are important to you, but other people really couldn't care less about?
I love rap music. To me, a good rap song can have so much depth and meaning. My heart for others, my faith in God, and my appreciation for people of different backgrounds have all been challenged by people who used the medium of rap to communicate.
Most people don't really want to hear about this.
Something that God has pointed out to me is that I do a pretty terrible job of learning to care about what He cares about. I often come to God for direction, for peace, and -if I'm honest- to appease Him, because, after years of following Him, I can still think He's somehow needy. Recently, God began pointing out to me that I rarely talk to Him about what He wants to talk about. First, I don't talk to God about the nations (namely, the thousands of international students at UTD from mostly unreached countries) coming to know Him. Second, I don't often come to God just to be with Him. I think Jesus came to his Father for direction, peace, wisdom, and more, but I also think Jesus just loved to be with his Father.
|My SICM roommates and I with our wonderful host family! From left to right: Deion, Me (looking very dazed), Jason (our "host dad"), Toni (our "host mom"), Aidan, Sion, and Caleb (our "host brother")|
Every year, FOCUS sends a number of students who have shown consistency, initiative, and a heart for God and people to Bellingham, Washington for a week-long conference called SICM, where they learn to be disciple-makers on their campuses. SICM is where I first began to see myself as someone who God wanted to use to bring others to Him (or closer to Him) on campus.
And it was so great this year!
Overall, it encouraged me and put ministry back in perspective to see a bunch of college students getting excited to share their faith with others and grow closer to God.
- Pray for summer FOCUS! We start today, and I'm super excited. I've found that God can do a lot of behind-the-scenes heart work during the slower days of the summertime, and I would love to see Him do that in our students and staff.
- Pray for our students who are back home. It can be hard to keep growing in your faith when the structures (small groups, accountability, one-on-one Bible studies) that pushed you towards God fall out of place. Please pray that they would continue to grow as disciples and find a solid Christian community where they are.
Wednesday, April 10, 2019
|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.
Tuesday, March 5, 2019
|If you ever have the opportunity to be on a Q&A panel with your mentors, do it. You get to look more important than you are without answering any questions. More about this event (Pizza Theology) below!|
Hello! I have a veritable smorgasbord of updates this month.
First things first: I have committed to staying on FOCUS for an additional 4 school years after this one! I'm excited about this- I can't wait to see what God does in me as a minister, and what He does on our campuses.
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.