Thursday, December 13, 2018
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.
Other Great Humans
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!)
Saturday, September 15, 2018
|Meeting freshmen at a board game night in a res hall! These were the bread and butter of our outreach before school started, and we were blessed to meet so many new people!|
"Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the Lord God as he was walking
in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the Lord God among the trees of the garden. But the Lord God called to the man, 'Where are you?'"
God has blessed FOCUS students and staff in their mission immensely so far this year. There have been so many students who didn't at all seem receptive to Christian community come around and end up wanting to find real friendships with us and learn more about Jesus. I can see students who are approaching ministry and fellowship with much more zeal than I had at their age, and I'm grateful for it.
While many new students have reacted to us with open hearts and grateful words, this is- of course- not always the case. It's been interesting to note, however, that hostility isn't a problem with students, so much as avoidance is. We've been going through a sermon series called Why are we her? about the broader Biblical narrative that's established in Genesis of who God is, who we are, and how everything got so broken. As we've been doing this, I've been taking a step back and thinking about these same things, and what keeps coming to mind is the strange propensity we have as humans to avoid the God who is reaching out towards us. Possibly the biggest indication that Adam and Eve knew they were doing something wrong when they took the fruit from the serpent is that they never approached God about the whole ordeal. I mean, if I was losing in an argument to a serpent about what God said to me, I'd wait until God's next morning stroll to clear the whole issue up...right?
But it seems like we all are implicated in this avoidance of God. I've read (somewhere) that some of the saddest words in the entire Bible are God's words to Adam after the fruit is taken: "Where are you?" I'm realizing more and more that the job of a minister is to push people to face God. To the freshman who grew up in the Church, but doesn't really want to go deeper in their faith, God says: "where are you?" To the student leader who is so concerned about how God might be appraising their work that they're afraid to know, God says: "where are you?" And to me, the campus minister who busies himself with a thousand tasks to use as a thousand excuses for not slowing down and listening to God's voice, He says: "where are you?"
The most beautiful parts of my ministry experience have been watching people come out of their hiding places to face God and realize that He wants what's best for them. The most beautiful parts of my life have been the times I've realized I've been hiding and have turned to face Him.
|Our first Friday Night Fellowship this year. We've had an incredible turnout every week, and I've gotten to meet so many people and have so many good conversations.|
Monday, August 6, 2018
|Our new apprentices this year! From left to right (*deep breath*): Alex, Brittany, Abbi, Emily 1, Emily 2, Sam, a laptop, Reagann, Drew, Amber, Ryan, an empty chair, Darby, and Jesse.|
"When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they
were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.
Then he said to his disciples, 'The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few.
Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.'"
One thing I've noticed in my brief time in campus ministry is that many of life's forces seem to draw us away from reaching out to new people. It's a constant temptation to get complacent, to cloister oneself away, and to rest on the fact that you worked hard last week, last month, or last semester. What God has been pointing out to me lately is that this attitude creeps up most when I am selfish. Have I gotten burnt out? Have I chosen comfort over faithfulness? Have I lost a heart for others? These all happen when somewhere along the way, I took my eyes off of the person of Jesus and the needs of others.
This summer has largely been a journey of reorienting myself towards the mission of ministry rather than focusing on transitioning staff teams and cities or doing my tasks well. This verse keeps coming to mind. "The harvests are plentiful, but the workers are few." Jesse Wang, a new FOCUS staff member (who has been doing campus ministry much, much longer than I have) frequently emphasizes to me in our conversations how few of the students on campus at UTD are ever invited to study the Bible, to be a part of a small group, or to come to a campus ministry or church meeting. I'm realizing that the people who are closest to the heart for God are by necessity inundated with a heart for bringing people into His Kingdom.
Getting Geared Up
|A bunch of the staff getting snowcones during staff retreat. The blonde boy with sunglasses on is Drew Cleveland- we led a core (small group) together my second year as a student leader, and he's apprenticing with FOCUS this year!|
We just had our annual summer staff retreat this week, in which we spent a few days hanging out, worshipping God, getting to know one another better, welcoming the new apprentices, and preparing for the explosion of life that is the first few weeks of school! I was struck by how much more at home I felt among the staff this time around.
I want to say a special thank you to all of my supporters again. It means so much to me that you would follow a call to give to support the ministry we do. I hope to keep getting to know you better as the year goes on!
Also, welcome to the new supporters!
Friday, July 6, 2018
|Students from all of our campuses at one of our Thursday Night Fellowships. God has been moving at these nights every week in some really cool ways!|
He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters,
he restores my soul. He guides me in paths of righteousness for his name's sake."
"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
I hated the summertime as a kid.
Well, hate may be a strong word, but I do remember sitting on the floor of my room, yearning for the excitement of the school year to return. I felt like I lost the ability to learn, to be creative, to grow as a person in the summer. Of course, by the time April and May rolled around, I was stressed out, barely able to wait long enough for summer to begin. The grass was always greener on the other side.
I also felt this way about my own spiritual growth in my first few years as a disciple (and my first couple of summers as a college student). I could grow a lot during the year, but the hours and hours of free time the summer gave me felt more like miles and miles of desert than anything else. The same applied to ministry. During the year, there were Bible studies to lead, mentors to learn from, and students to study the Bible with. Then all of a sudden, just me, a Bible, and way too much unused energy pushing me away from it.
What God's been teaching me is that since He is a God who loves to spiritually feed His children, He can direct me toward pastures that are green with opportunities to learn, to love, and to grow. At any season of life, God can provide me (and you) with spiritual growth and with people to minister to.
God has given me so many new ways to grow and people to learn from and minister to over the past month!
- I've begun meeting up with potential corefas for this year at UTD! (Just as a friendly reminder, "corefas" = core facilitators, cores = small groups) These interactions have been so encouraging- these guys are all so grateful for what God has done in their lives through their cores this past year, and they can't wait to point people to Jesus. Getting to lay foundations with them months in advance is a huge blessing.
- I've gotten to reconnect with old friends, be blessed by them, and (hopefully) bless them. Friends like Drew Cleveland (who's going to be apprenticing at UTD this year!), Joseph Hackenbracht (who I led core with my last semester at UTD!), and Joey Thurston (who was in my core as a freshman, but even at that point challenged me with how thoughtful, mature, and in love with Jesus he was).
- I've gotten to dip my toes into children's ministry some! I helped out at JaM Camp- which is a camp the DFW Metro Family of Churches does for children K-5. God has been widening my horizons and teaching me to be a disciple of Jesus in my interactions with people of all ages.
- I've gotten to have great conversations with past and potential future financial supporters. Getting to pray for and be prayed for by people who have so purposefully helped me out in the ministry God has called me to is very, very meaningful.
- I've gotten to build deeper relationships with family members. As a socialite who likes to be busy, I've been criminally bad at growing in my relationships with family over the past. God has been pointing out the selfishness and ickiness (that's a Biblical term) of this attitude and giving me opportunities to have conversations of depth with family members.
As I go through the process of fundraising again, I'm struck by how generous and thoughtful people really are. Thank you so much to everyone who has prayed for and given to FOCUS and to me specifically!