Saturday, November 4, 2017

Where God Resides

Our family of churches worshiping together at our all-church retreat. Seeing people from these three churches coming together to celebrate what God has done in their communities is an enormous blessing.

11 Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing...14 And we urge you, brothers and sisters, warn those who are idle and disruptive, encourage the disheartened, help the weak, be patient with everyone.
- 1 Thessalonians 5:11, 14
Seeing the Body at Work

      As I complete this third month of the FOCUS apprenticeship, I figured I was overdue to take some time to share about the kind of community FOCUS is, and why I believe God's fingerprints are all over it. 

     Over the last month, I've seen students of a wide variety of ages and backgrounds minister to me and to one another in very real ways. During one Friday Night Fellowship (our larger group meetings), we were talking about Psalms of Lament, and how we often see the authors in the Psalms express painful realities and difficult questions to God while still choosing to trust in Him. After the sermon, students were asked to come up to a microphone (in front of ~150 of their peers) and share a sentence that matches the prompt:

"[Lament], but I choose to trust Him."
     Pain comes in many forms, so the prompt was left as simple as possible. Over the next several minutes, students shared about illness and death amongst their loved ones, broken relationships, depression, anxiety, and countless other things that often don't make sense. Even as they were sharing these things, it was obvious that God was using the Body to comfort them. 

     Just last night, Matt (FOCUS's director here in Denton, also my mentor, also my friend) preached on humility, putting forth a phrase that has become popular in FOCUS: "humble people honor people." Again, students were challenged to put this into practice by directly encouraging and thanking people who had made an impact on their lives that year. The amount of very real, simple, vulnerable encouragement that went on in that room was beautiful. 

     This is a body of students who truly want to know, follow, and live like Jesus, and I'm humbled that I get to help them in that. 

Nate and Jacob (left and right, respectively) are two of the guys in my peer team. This picture was taken after they finished praying for one another. This time of the semester is always hard in campus ministry, but God has been faithful to give us the peace needed to do His work. 

Peer Team

     My relationships with the group of student leaders who God has put into my life to mentor (which is a joke because they minister to me more than I minister to them) have begun to sprout and bring fruit in ways that I could only hope for at the beginning of the year. All I could ask for from these guys is for them to show up to do what God has called them to do and allow Him to work in their hearts, and I've gotten to see so much more than that. All of these guys are within a year of my age (both older and younger), and the spiritual "acquaintances" that we started with are fast becoming spiritual friendships. One day I might be having a difficult, challenging conversation with a guy, and the next day he could be beating me in an arm wrestle. One moment, I might be reading through Scripture or an article with a pair of core leaders, and the next moment, one of us could say something unintentionally ridiculous that becomes an inside joke. 

     God's goodness continues to be surprising, baffling, and better than the human goodness that I often ask for from Him. 


The last day of our Old Testament Foundations class. Normally, we have class in a conference room, but Mandy (leftmost) who teaches the class, decided to treat us to a home-cooked meal in her home to celebrate a class well done.

     As we have continued to delve deeper into more classes, I have again been struck by how incredible a blessing it is that God has chosen to keep revealing more of Himself throughout history- and that we get to learn more about Him. The apprentices recently finished reading through the Old Testament, and it's given me a much stronger appreciation for how God shows Himself to be good once you get some perspective, and how I'm so, so thankful for Jesus and a community that knows Him. 

     We also recently started a class called Pneumatology, which really just means "the study of the Holy Spirit," but we call it Pneumatology so we can feel smarter than we actually are. In all seriousness, the Holy Spirit is something that I (and the church traditions that I grew up in) have tended to shy away from or misconstrue. This is pretty tragic, considering how highly Jesus (and Paul) spoke of the Spirit. That being said, I believe God has already begun to reconstruct my view of His Spirit, and I can't wait to see what He shows me.

     Thank you again to everyone who has helped me through prayer and financial support. I hope my blogs have been at least somewhat of an encouragement to you. I would also highly recommend that you read blogs from the other FOCUS apprentices this year (Jalen, Caitlin, Eddie, Dawn, and Kristen). You can find their blogs at [name] 

  • Praise God for what He has already done. People are studying the Bible and forging close friendships with Christians who never thought they would!
  • Pray for wisdom as we seek to reach out to the male students at TWU. This particular campus is in many ways a uniquely dark and lonely place, and it has been difficult to reach the 15% of the student body who are males. 
  • Pray for our student leaders to find peace and rest. They've had amazing attitudes and hearts this year, but many of them are full-time students, work jobs, help with FOCUS, and have families who live far away from Denton.