Tuesday, April 21, 2020
As always, thank you so much to everyone who supports me in ministry :)
Thursday, February 27, 2020
|I don't know why, and I don't know how, but a lot of people ended up wearing their shoes on their heads at a recent outreach event.|
"Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, t
author and perfecter of our faith,
who for the joy set before him e
the cross, scorning its shame,
and sat down at the right hand
of the throne of God."
Hebrews 12:2 (NIV)
"I want to know Christ —
yes, to know the power of his resurrection
and participation in his sufferings,
becoming like him in his death,
and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead."
Philippians 3:10-11 (NIV)
For the last few months, I've felt a push from God to look at Jesus more. At first, this feels like a "duh" kind of idea. Of course I'm supposed to look at Jesus! But looking more intently at Him has led me to the realization that I often miss out on genuinely and intently focusing my eyes on Jesus. I think we often look at Christ in a general, remember-that-Jesus-exists kind of way, but rarely in a energy-taking and energy-giving, personal, open kind of way.
Re-reading the Gospels and being introduced to others' thoughts about Jesus (The Life of Jesus by James Stalker and The Jesus I Never Knew by Philip Yancey being two highlights) has unstuck me from my thought patterns and comfortable approaches to ministry in a lot of ways. Too often I model my ministry based on Christian ideas and morals rather than on the actual teachings and methods of Jesus.
|Paul is one of the student leaders who I have the pleasure of being with and mentoring this year. He's super funny, charismatic, and makes so many sacrifices for the Kingdom.|
|Josiah is one of the guys I meet with this year, and not only is he well on his way to a PHD (despite being 22 years old), he's also amazingly forgiving, wise, and humble.|
|Luke leads a small group with Paul. Having two apostles leading the same small group really is a blessing :). Also, he's incredibly smart, musically gifted, and has a level of commitment and pastoral wisdom that's extremely rare in guys his age.|
|The foot is mine. The rest is my friend Akwasi. He was in FOCUS when he was my age (he's like...90 now), and his friendship pushes me to take myself less seriously and take Christ in more gratefully.|
Our annual fundraiser / concert / art sale / extravaganza for the Student Institute of Campus Ministry is THIS Saturday the 29th! I highly, highly recommend going- this show is always a blast, and it goes towards sending students to a week of training on how to disciple peoples in college. That week of classes has led to SO much fruit in my life over the last 6 years, so it's a cause that I really believe in. More info at anyfocus.org/showcase!
Also, thank you so much to everyone who prays for and gives to my ministry on campus. You are all such a blessing to me.
Tuesday, January 21, 2020
Saturday, November 30, 2019
|A shot of the horizon at UTD. More on why I put this picture here below!|
"Whoever watches the wind will not plant;
whoever looks at the clouds will not reap.
As you do not know the path of the wind,
or how the body is formed in a mother’s womb,
so you cannot understand the work of God,
the Maker of all things.
Sow your seed in the morning,
and at evening let your hands not be idle,
for you do not know which will succeed,
whether this or that,
or whether both will do equally well."
“Then the man who had received one bag of gold came.
‘Master,’ he said, ‘I knew that you are a hard man,
harvesting where you have not sown
and gathering where you have not scattered seed.
So I was afraid and went out and hid your gold in the ground.
See, here is what belongs to you.’"
Lately, I've had the feeling that something was holding me back from engaging with God, with people, and with the tasks I have in front of me. I've gotten the sense from God (and been told by friends) that the best thing I could do in this situation was to choose not to focus on my own inner concerns, but to focus on two things: to understand and love Him and to give love and nurturing to others. Ironically enough, the one prayer that I've prayed the most in the past 3 years has been to love God with all of my heart, soul, mind, and strength, and to love people like Jesus did.
So, I decided to try to focus on that, rather than attempting to solve my problems through introspection (a favorite pastime of mine). Instead of focusing on how I should pray, I began to focus on going back to the drawing board for a richer understanding of who Jesus is. Instead of focusing on how I should love, I began to focus on who was around me and what their needs were.
Then, I found myself alone in a car for two hours on a rainy night this week, driving to a Thanksgiving gathering. Finally, in some time with God in the car, I got some clarity on the situation.
The common thread holding me back from engaging with God, people, tasks, goals, and presence was fear.
Fear of letting the guys I meet with arrive at the end of the year unchanged.
Fear of slipping into old attitudes and habits.
Fear of wasting a meeting, a sermon, a blog, or even a semester.
Fear of falling back into anxiety.
Fear of drifting away from God.
Fear of God turning away from me.
Fear of letting someone down.
Fear of getting in trouble for letting someone down.
I was reminded of 1 John 4:16-18- "God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them. This is how love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment: In this world we are like Jesus. There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love."
Wherever you feel fear regarding a situation or a person, there could be a tangible opportunity to push yourself toward love and toward action.
A few important notes.
- It hit me again during Thanksgiving break just how much I have to be grateful for. God has blessed me in too many ways to count. A specific thank-you to everyone who supports me in ministry through prayer, conversation, and donations.
- Another thing to be grateful for: UTD FOCUS has had a handful of baptisms in the last couple of weeks!
- As you may have already heard, December 3rd is Giving Tuesday, and FOCUS is going to be raising donations for our annual Keep FOCUS Growing fundraiser. This year, our theme for KFG is Bring the Horizon. This comes from the idea that the horizon is where heaven meets earth. When we think of the horizons for FOCUS, we think of more students from more people groups on more campuses hearing about God in a more meaningful and effective way. As FOCUS seeks to reach more campuses in the DFW Metroplex and send out more missionaries onto those campuses, we find ourselves in more and more need for financial support. This year, we've raised $36,000 in matching funds, so please mark your calendar for December 3rd and give on anyfocus.org/KFG!
- While filming a promo video for KFG, I dropped my phone from the fifth story of a parking garage, and somehow, it didn't break! Praise God for that!
|Paul and Luke are two guys in my peer team. Paul (left) is on staff at his church and a leader in FOCUS, in addition to working separate jobs in social media advertising. He's incredibly hardworking, and I don't think I've ever heard him complain. Luke (right) hopes to serve God in the medical field and is mature well beyond his years. Both of these guys are enormously insightful into scripture and into the guys in their core.|
|This is Josh. He's not actually as serious as he looks in this photo. I've gotten the privilege of meeting with him for 3 out of his 4 years of college. He's bold, tender, wise, and uncomfortably intelligent, and God has done some awesome things in him and through him in his time at UTD.|
|Andrew is new to my peer team this year. He's generous, wise, funny, and unique, and he loves God's Word. Also, you can tell by the way this picture is taken from below that he's pretty tall.|
|I didn't know Tim very well before this year, but he is leading a small group with my friend Jack, and I've gotten to know him quite a bit better this year. He's smart, insightful, and fierce in his work ethic and love for others. He's killing it in that dress shirt.|
Friday, October 25, 2019
|God reaching out to Adam (representing mankind) in the Creation of Adam section of the Sistine Chapel.|
“I revealed myself to those who did not ask for me;
I was found by those who did not seek me.
To a nation that did not call on my name,
I said, ‘Here am I, here am I.’
All day long I have held out my hands
to an obstinate people,
who walk in ways not good,
pursuing their own imaginations..."
God to the Israelites; Isaiah 65:1-2 (NIV)
"He came to Simon Peter, who said to him,
'Lord, are you going to wash my feet?'
'You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand.'
'No,' said Peter, “you shall never wash my feet.'
'Unless I wash you, you have no part with me.'
'Then, Lord,” Simon Peter replied,
'not just my feet but my hands and my head as well!'
'Those who have had a bath need only to wash their feet;
their whole body is clean.
And you are clean, though not every one of you.'"
Jesus washes Peter's feet; John 13:6-10 (NIV)
"Here I am! I stand at the door and knock.
If anyone hears my voice and opens the door,
I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me."
Jesus to the Church in Laodicea; Revelation 3:20 (NIV)
"God doesn't clean His fish before He catches them."
From a song I heard, and also from an embroidered
pillow someone was selling on Facebook.
God has been using a handful of Bible verses, conversations, pieces of art, and times of prayer to point something out to me: repentance is relational.
Some of the Bible's strongest calls to repentance are followed closely by some of its strongest calls to approach God.
Recently, I gave a sermon on unity in the Church, and the Creation of Adam from the Sistine Chapel (pictured above) spoke to me a lot. In the picture, God is reaching desperately out to Adam (literally reaching out from heaven towards mankind, straining towards them), and Adam is relaxing like a lazy Roman king eating his dinner, draping a limp hand back out towards God. It hit me as a call to reflect on all the things God has done in history and in my life to reach His hands out to me, and all of the ways I have neglected to grab ahold of His hand.
Perhaps the first step to repentance is often to repent of the way we see God.
What I've Been Up To
- Peer team- getting to meet with, be friends with, mentor, and pursue God with 12 different student leaders this year has been a huge blessing and challenge. More on that below!
- Core visits- Each pair of these student leaders facilitates a different core (small group), and I've gotten to visit each of these small groups over the last few weeks. Seeing what God is doing and getting to share the experience He's given me in that area (you become "the experienced one" quickly when the turnover rate is 3 or 4 years) has been awesome
- FOCUS on Jesus videos- I've had the privilege of filming training videos for our new 1-1 Bible study. These videos will loosely guide hundreds or even thousands of students over the next several years as they study the Bible with their peers. Many thanks to Laurence Glenesk over at SMU FOCUS for writing the new study!
- Preaching at Tuesday Night Fellowship- I've gotten to preach every other week at our large-group meetings on Tuesdays. This has grown me a lot in trust and time-management. Also, it's definitely pushed me to grow in public speaking.
- Marketing- I've loved getting to oversee our awesome 3-person marketing team at UTD. Our goal is that no student has to graduate without having heard of a Christian community on campus- we want to be a visible community of Christ for our peers to see around them. This has involved video commercials, banners, yard signs, Instagram posts, etc.. Many thanks to Ashley and Maria (two of our apprentices this year) for all of their creativity and hard work in this area!
|A student named Corbett who is an alma mater of my old highschool, Coram Deo Academy. Getting to be friends with someone who is in the same spot I was in 5 or 6 years ago is such a cool opportunity :) Love you, dude!|
|Ashley Obregon- UTD apprentice, Christian Instagram influencer, all-around godly woman. It's been great working with her this year.|
|Jack Steele- two years in a row in my peer team. Jack is one of the most generous young men I've met, and I've seen him grow in confidence and pastoral thinking so much over the last 16 months or so!|
|Jalen Quintana- UTA staff member, and the first person I ever led a small group with. This is a terrible picture of him, but I know he won't mind. He has the spiritual gifts of evangelism, wisdom, and laughter.|
|Charlie was an honorary member of my peer team last year, and now he's leading a core! He's been so influential in bringing people from different interest clubs at UTD to FOCUS, and he brings a sharpness and energy that I value so much.|
|Our students at Fall Camp! We had such a good time this year learning about making and sticking with decisions in our walks with God.|
|One of my core visits this year turned into us waiting out a tornado in a garage (which I now know was maybe not our best option). Everyone was safe!|
|John Bunyard- a friend, roommate, and peer team guy. He has a dry sense of humor that has had me rolling on the floor laughing, but I've also been floored by his insight into Scripture and into people. Definitely wise beyond his years.|
|Apparently, bracelet-making is the favorite activity of males at camps.|
|Our community put on a small surprise birthday party for David Maynard (you can guess where he is in this picture) at Braum's. David has impacted as many people in this community as anyone I can think of, so it was well-deserved.|
- We are re-integrating our Tuesday Night Fellowship with our Friday Night Fellowship to redirect more staff hours away from event-planning and towards time with students. Please pray that this would lead to fruit in our community.
- Please pray for the victims of the tornado in the Garland area.
- Please pray for our busy students and staff to walk in step with God and be at peace.
- We have a lot of students who aren't Christians, but who have shown interest in learning more about the Bible. Pray for us to be faithful in loving them and showing them who Jesus is.
Tuesday, September 10, 2019
"The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy;
I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full."
John 10:10 (NIV)
Have you ever, as a child (or as an adult), realized that you don't know your parents as well as you had thought you did? That you don't know what they were like as your age, or how they interacted with their parents, or what they used to want to be when they grew up, or what is on their mind on any given day?
The things most central to our lives can be easiest to take for granted. I think that's true for us as Christians, too.
Why do some Christians seem bored of Jesus by the time they arrive to UTD as freshmen?
Why do other Christians reach their 70s, 80s, and 90s and seem more in love with- and more mystified by- Jesus than ever before?
Two words come to mind: "wonder" and "experience." Put more simply, God wants to turn our dead periods into living question marks and exclamation points.
Lately, God has led me to the conviction that I don't get Jesus to the extent that I think I do. I don't feel like He is saying this from a place of condemnation, but from a place of invitation.
He is inviting me to ask why Paul could be nearing the end of his painful and fruitful ministry and reflect that he wants to "know Christ, —yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead." (Philippians 3:10, emphasis mine). He's also inviting me to reflect on what it looks like to experience Christ's death and resurrection in my own life.
When Jesus talks about being the "life," when John refers to Jesus as bringing life and being full of life, what does that actually mean?
I have thoughts, but I'll let you comment your thoughts to this question :)
What has been happening?
Sometimes, when I have a particularly long day or week, I'll journal everything that happened in bullet-point form so I can get it all down on paper. So here's an information dump of some things that have happened!