Thursday, April 13, 2023
Thursday, March 2, 2023
"Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.
It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres."
1 Corinthians 13:6-7 (NIV)
"Can a mother forget the baby at her breast
and have no compassion on the child she has borne?
Though she may forget, I will not forget you.
See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands;
your walls are ever before me."
“Hope means hoping when things are hopeless, or it is no virtue at all.
As long as matters are really hopeful, hope is mere flattery or platitude;
it is only when everything is hopeless that hope begins to be a strength.”
Lately, God has been showing me just how insidious how an unloving, unforgiving heart can really be. I think we often assume that an unforgiving and unloving heart must be actively bitter- at the forefront of one's mind. While that is certainly often the case, I wonder if this kind of thing more often flies under the radar in the form of mild annoyance, lowered expectations, and subtle avoidance. Maybe a lack of love and forgiveness looks more like a lack of involvement than like hostility. Perhaps that's why Scripture tells us that God disciplines those whom He loves. He has enough hope for the kinds of people that He can transform us into that He doesn't give up or shy away from extreme measures. He has been showing me how often I don't exhibit this kind of loving persistence- passing off my dismissal of others as acceptance and my unwillingness to challenge others and myself as patience.
Is there anyone in your life who you've lost hope for in subtle ways? What would it look like to embrace the reality found in Jesus that love always hopes?
One of the goals FOCUS has begun to pursue more is to more effectively welcome all kinds of people into our community. UTD is one of the most diverse college campuses in the country, but (like in most places), people tend to cluster into groups that look the same and think the same. It can be easy to reach out to students who look like me, invite them to a service where the pastors all look like me where they can sing music made by people who look like me and listen to me quote theologians who look like me in my sermon. While diversity for its own sake may not be the main goal of ministry, the call of God's people is to be a blessing to all nations, and often we assume this will happen with no effort or thought on our part. Some of our pastors and students recently put on an event called RELEASE that celebrated African American and native African art- much of which is Christian. It was a way to communicate to a large section of the campus that the community we offer is for them, too. That we want God's fingerprints to be on everyone at our campus, and we want our community to look more and more like the multitude of every tribe and nation that God revealed to John in Revelation.
A group of professional African drummers and dancers teaching a dance to
But beyond the seriousness of these goals, it was a beautiful event, and some of the most fun I've had in a long time!
|The show ended with a New Orleans style second line chorus. It was one of
the most joyful things I've seen happen on any college campus.
- The last week of March is Spring Outreach Week- a time where a group of students from another college ministry in Washington state called Campus Christian Fellowship joins up with our students to reach students across campus- connecting them with Christians, bringing them into Christian community, and sharing the message of Jesus with them. Please be praying that God work work through this!
- There are still a lot of students and staff members in FOCUS who are going through a really hard time with crises and tragedies in their own lives and in the lives of family and friends. Please be praying for comfort, peace, and strength for them- both through God's people and directly through His Spirit and provision.
Thursday, February 16, 2023
|A moment of worship and celebration at our annual Winter Retreat. Sirak, Jadon, and Lailah- all sweet
friends are seen here making a joyful noise!
|A group of UTD grads- all of whom I got to know as students, and many of whom I got the pleasure
of meeting with on a weekly basis. Mark (in the Dr. Pepper shirt) is getting married next month!
While my monthly ministry updates usually focus on my time with college students while they are still in school, it is also a blessing to get to remain friends with many students well into their post-college years. One special way of getting to do that is at weddings, and I've had the blessing and honor of getting to be a groomsmen or officiant in several weddings of men who used to be students in FOCUS. This weekend, I'm a groomsmen in the wedding of two of our graduates- one of whom I got time with every week for two years. Next month, I get to officiate the wedding of two of our other students- one of whom has graduated, and the other of whom is graduating soon. As I push further past my own college years, I'm learning more about what it takes to launch from college into the rest of adult life as a disciple, and it's a great gift and responsibility to share this with the men I disciple.
Thank you so much to everyone who has been praying for our students and who has been supporting us with your prayers, your conversations, your encouragement, and your financial support. As I re-read the first several books of the Old Testament, I'm reminded of how the Levites were only able to serve in the Temple because they were provided for by the rest of God's people- thus, they all took part in caring for the Temple. Similarly, the pastors in FOCUS would never be able to devote their full attention to ministry without the support of hundreds of people who have long since left college and college ministry.
Thursday, November 17, 2022
"My heart says of You, 'Seek His face!'
Your face, Lord, I will seek."
Psalm 27:8 (NIV)
Song of the waters calling: come and drink.
Come, all you creatures, to the shadowy brink
in dark of night.
This spring of living water I desire,
here in the bread of life I see entire
in dark of night.
Song of the Soul by St. John of the Cross
(translated by John Frederick Nims)
There is a unique plight that a college pastor who is concerned with the spiritual health of the people under their care will always face: How do I foster spiritual health in this person that will outlast their time as a student? It's the teach-a-man-to-fish conundrum- only in regards to loving God. I think there can often be a problem in the Church in which pastors concern themselves with motivating people to pray, and churchgoers concern themselves with finding pastors who will motivate them to pray. What's interesting is that the material on prayer found in Scripture, as well as the material on prayer throughout Church history that has been deemed worthy to be passed down through the centuries is hardly concerned with motivating people to seek God.
Instead, the angle of approach seems in many ways to be one of showing the kind of precious, intimate, all-encompassing relationship with God that is possible. Rather than pushing prayer onto people the way a parent pushes their child to eat vegetables, these writers presume a thirst for prayer- seemingly operating on the assumption that the ache for more that we feel is not a problem to solve, but a blessed invitation. What if rather than searching ourselves for an energized motivation to pray, we searched ourselves for spiritual hunger pangs, seeing them as an invitation, rather than a problem?
A Smorgasbord of Pictures
A bunch of college students have started using the social media app BeReal over the last handful of months. Rather than providing users with a constantly generating feed of content, all it does is randomly ping you (and all of your friends) once a day at a random time, giving you two minutes to take a picture of what you're up to. It has proved invaluable in capturing both the candid moments of ministry and the horrifying faces I am capable of making. Enjoy.
|Talking through small group leadership with Stian (left) and Jonathan (right)
|I try to play basketball with students once or twice a week.
Pictured here is Jadon, in the worst-timed picture ever.
|Sometimes a 20-30 minute time alone with God in the afternoon
helps to process the day so far and prepare for the rest of it.
|Eating breakfast with Drew, a Denton FOCUS pastor.
We led a core together in 2015-16, and were both in each other's weddings!
|The Northeast Church retreat!
|Teaching a preaching workshop for our apprentices!
Pictured: Hannah and Stian
Not pictured: Katherine, Coral, Kevin, and Eileen
|Getting to study the Bible with Andrew, a TCU student!
My wife and I brought home a kitten (who we've named Winnie)
to be a little sister to our cat (named Captain).
- Pray for our students over the Thanksgiving break. Pray that they would be a light to their families, and that they would be able to come back refreshed.
- Pray for our one-on-one Bible studies, that God would use them to bring people closer to Him.
Thursday, October 20, 2022
|Jonathan (left) and Stian (right) are two of my favorite guys to meet with. Here they are, both wearing the same shirt, and both frozen in what can only be described as a half-grimace.
Jonathan is a student who has blessed me and others with his humility, consistency, and dedication to being a faithful disciple and a good friend. Stian is a good friend of mine who is doing the apprenticeship this year! More on him below.
Thursday, September 8, 2022
|All of the current FOCUS pastors from over a dozen different campuses, all together in one place!
"In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.
Now the earth was formless and empty,
darkness was over the surface of the deep,
and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters."
Genesis 1:1-2 (NIV)
"Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come:
The old has gone, the new is here!"
2 Corinthians 5:17 (NIV)
As I have mentioned a few times in these ministry updates, I have spent the last year and a half in part-time (and occasionally full-time) seminary classes with Fuller Theological Seminary.
One of the many classes I have gotten to take this year boasted a beautiful name: The Church's Understanding of the Church, Humanity, and the Christian Life in its Theological Reflection (as you can imagine, it provided me with a lot of nice, easygoing, rainy day reading material). Two of the many topics covered in this class were those of Creation and Anthropology (the study of humanity, and what it means to be human). Studying these things brought about a much more robust understanding of the fact that not only did God create everything I see around me- He is continually sustaining and creating new things.
The ways we see God creating in Genesis help us understand the ways that He makes us into new creations! Just as the Spirit hovered over the chaos and nothingness of reality before creating the universe, He hovers over the chaos and nothingness of our hearts, our relationships, and our lives. Just as God spoke light, life, order, flourishing, purpose and relationships into being for Creation, He is doing the same in our lives today. Notice the words John picks up on when describing Jesus in his Gospel and in his letters- light, life, water, birth, etc...all images that first find their way into Scripture in the narrative of Creation.
How does your life resemble the story of Creation? Are you in a time of chaos and nothingness, barely cognizant of the Spirit hovering over you, planning something new and keeping you from boiling over? Is God bringing order to an area of your life? Is He shining light on something in your heart? Is He introducing new relationships- filling your life in new ways? Is He clearing away something old, making room for something new (like a gardener)?
The Creator in Ministry
At the beginning of each school year, college pastors get to see a new stage for God's creating work to take place in. There are new students we meet, who God plans on turning into new creations. Because of the turnover rate of college ministry, the student body on each of our campuses takes on a totally new culture every year, and we get to join God in creating and cultivating something new, by His grace helping to bring light, life, and order into dark and chaotic places.
Over the last few weeks, we have:
This is a hectic time of year, but also an exciting and blessed one. I wish I could tell you about every freshman and first-time student leader who I'm excited about this semester, but for now it will have to suffice to say that there are a lot.
Thank you so much if you have prayed for me, checked in on me, or supported me financially. You are the reason I can be a full-time college pastor.
- Please pray for the many freshmen (and new students of all kinds) that we have met over the past few weeks. Pray for them to find good friends who point them to Christ, and to dedicate themselves to following Jesus during their time in college and beyond.
- Please pray for our campus pastors and student leaders. While this time of year is encouraging, it is also incredibly exhausting! Pray for physical, spiritual, and emotional well-being.
- At the end of September, our campuses all do what we call Fall Camp, which is a unique ministry opportunity, because the students get a lot of time around one another and around their pastors.