Saturday, November 30, 2019

Fear would be a good word for it.

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."
Ecclesiastes 11:4-6

“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.’"
Matthew 25:24-25

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!
  • 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.

John has been my roommate for the last 3 semesters, and he's in my peer team this year. On top of that, he's quickly becoming a good friend of mine. He has a natural intuition and love of Scripture (plus a heart to grow in that), a totally out-of-left-field sense of humor (he's had me rolling on the ground in laughter multiple times), and a loyal, teachable heart. On top of that, he's grown so much in using his gifts to love and minister to others.

Friday, October 25, 2019

Limp Wrist

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?'
Jesus replied, 
'You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand.'
'No,' said Peter, “you shall never wash my feet.'
Jesus answered, 
'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!'
Jesus answered, 
'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

I Have Come That They May Have Life

"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!

  • We got new apprentices at UTD! I'll have pictures of them later on, but for now, their names are Maria, Cort, Kylie, Hanna Mason, Hannah Diaz, Ashley, and Erin. They've done great work on campus already, and I'm loving getting to work with them.
  • We had quite possibly our most successful Welcome Week to date! So much cool stuff happened. I've gotten to see so many freshmen get several close Christian friends, come to their first Christian event, pray for the first time, and begin to study the Bible for the first time. 
  • We've gotten to try a lot more outreach geared towards international students and minority groups on campus. Our goal is for FOCUS to match the ethnic makeup of the campuses we're on, and for it to begin to reflect the heart for diverse people-groups that you see in Exodus, Isaiah, Mark, Acts, and Revelation (really, everywhere). We worked on an event with several other Christian organizations called the Big Howdy, in which hundreds and hundreds of international students (primarily from India and China) got invited into Christian community and experienced Christian hospitality. 400+ international students filled out interest cards at this event and were contacted individually by our students. We did an event for Latin-American students called the LatinXplosion, where 80 students (most of whom had never been to a FOCUS event) came, experienced the love and hospitality of Jesus, and were invited into our community. We did a worship and bubble-tea night for Asians and Asian-Americans where several Korean and Chinese students heard the Gospel for the first time, and a handful have stuck around! What's been really cool has been seeing our Latin-American and Asian-American students and staff taking ownership of these events and thriving in this environment. 
  • One of our apprentices, Ashley, has begun running our Instagram page, and she has done an amazing job! Using social media in this way has allowed us to reach so many students we otherwise wouldn't be able to reach. 
  • The first few weeks of school were amazing, but they were tough. I had a lot of 14-15 hour work days back-to-back (as did the rest of our staff at UTD). I sprained my ankle at a field day event I was helping run, and ended up being on crutches for the next two days. My car was hit by a truck and totaled a couple of weeks ago. 
  •  God has been good through all of this. I've gotten time to rest more recently, my ankle healed much more quickly than it should have (also my roommate just happened to have crutches that weren't his at our house), and God (and my parents) helped me find a Prius that will hopefully safe me a lot of money on gas and repairs. Praise Him!
  • We're currently in a sermon series on our theme for the year, which is Steadfast. The sermon series examines what it means to be steadfast (in love, in truth, in sacrifice), how God is steadfast, and how we can reflect His steadfastness in our lives.
  • There's a guy on the phone next to me yelling on the phone about business, and it's making it hard to focus on writing this blog. You'll figure out whether the total was $750,000 or not, sir. I just know it.
  • I've begun to co-lead our Tuesday Night Fellowship nights with Sarah Glenesk, another staff member (who I joke is my older sister, because of how nice and mean she is to me depending on the day). It's been so cool getting to work a fellowship night in a more intimate setting (60 people instead of 200). 


Students from several Christian organizations on campus being led in benediction at an event called United Worship
Students leading worship at our firsts Tuesday Night Fellowship
Students worshipping at our first Tuesday Night Fellowship.
My Hyundai Elantra, which is now advertising for FOCUS in a junkyard somewhere in Texas. Truly a city on a hill. 
A bunch of students at our Latin Xplosion event! We played Loteria, and it was a blast.

Keep scrolling to find out what's going on in this pic!
(See what I did there? Now you have to keep reading)

Akwasi, one of my best friends. He's a huge source of encouragement and creativity in my life, as well as a constant reminder of God's goodness.
Henry Pham- a student who came up in our Richland ministry and is about to graduate from UTD! He's wearing my glasses in this picture.
Cort Thomas is one of our apprentices (our only male apprentice at UTD). He came up through the Dallas Metro Family of Churches (who helped start and fund FOCUS), and has been doing an awesome job this year.
Joshua Marsh was in my core his freshman year, and now he's leading core for the second year in a row. Love this guy!
Stephen Milian was in my core his freshman year, and now he's the leader of our sound team on Fridays. A huge source of joy and remover of stress in my life. 
Alex Crossley is in my peer team for the second year in a row. His incredible hair and sense of style are rivaled only by his unique perspective on life and his genuine pursuit of Jesus. 


  • Pray for our new students to stick to the pursuit of Christ and Christian community that they've begun. 
  • Pray for energy and encouragement for our student leaders and staff.
  • Pray for our upcoming Fall Camp to go smoothly (no injuries!) and for God to use it to help students see Him and know Him.

Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Who Do You Say I Am?

People worshipping God at Teen Camp. More on that below.

"When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, 
he asked his disciples, 'Who do people say the Son of Man is?'
They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; 
others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets.'
'But what about you?' he asked. 'Who do you say I am?'
Simon Peter answered, 'You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.'"
Matthew 16:13-16 (NIV)
Lately, God has been calling me to look at Jesus more.

Crazy, right?

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
From left to right, me, Peter (lower), Brandon (upper), Austin Nelson, Austin Bailey, David, and Casey. Not pictured is Laurence.

I recently got to drive to Breckenridge, CO with several friends from FOCUS. It was so meaningful to get to spend time with these people. We all have multiple shades of relationship. Brandon is my boss, my mentor, and my friend. He also helped parent me some when I moved out. Peter is a friend, coworker, somewhat a boss, and a landlord. I don't know Austin Nelson very well- we lived together for all of two weeks last year- but he's hilarious and godly. Austin Bailey has been a friend from a different campus for years, and he will be doing the FOCUS apprenticeship at Collin College this year. David just finished his sophomore year, and we got to become much better friends during this trip. He's such a servant to people around him and loves deep conversation. Casey was in my peer team last year and will be a peer team leader this year. He's becoming a good friend. Laurence was my first peer team leader in 2014, and we've been friends since then. 

I remember being one of a couple of students who went on a trip with Brandon and Laurence three years ago. It was impactful to me to interact with them as friends. It was just as impactful this year. Nothing says "we're not going to be content to just be coworkers" like piling into a car together for 13 hours...twice.

Teen Camp
When I have longer to prep for a talk, I like to make more engaging slides. When I find out that I'll be speaking to an audience in the age range of 12-18, I need to make more engaging slides. I got to borrow a bunch of construction paper and made slides that displayed the ideas I was talking about. Here's my favorite!

I recently had the honor of getting to go to the annual camp for Christian Teen Fellowship (CTF), which is our church family's teen ministry. I don't think I've ever seen God do as many amazing things in as many amazing people's lives in such a short period of time as I did this past week. People experienced the Spirit for the first time. People forgave one another for bullying. Couples decided to stop dating in order to honor God more- and didn't feel the need to start drama over it. People shared their stories with one another. And most of all- so many people got closer to Jesus and gave more of themselves over to him. 

Sarah Worsham (she directs our UT Arlington campus) and I got to speak to the teens from Wylie over the topic of the Biblical story, and how we are also part of the Biblical story. I got to write a talk about Creation and about Jesus, and they were so rewarding to write and give. 

  • Pray for wisdom in pairing our small-group leaders together. Our small groups (cores) are almost always led by same-gender pairs, and we really want God's guidance in selecting pairs of people who complement one another and work well together.
  • Pray for the incoming freshmen, international students, and transfers at our campuses.

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
Have you ever been out of breath, and had the thought: "This walk to my mailbox sure is tough. I'm out of shape!"
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

Whatcha Want?

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!
  • Our students were incredibly cheerful, engaged, focused on God, and supportive of one-another (trust me, that's not always the case)
  • No one was injured (go hiking with 80-120 college freshman, and you'll see why that's a miracle)
  • We had some awesome experiences doing campus evangelism at different colleges in the area. One of my housemates, Deion (in the picture above) grew up Buddhist but became a Christian two years ago. The person he ended up in a conversation with grew up Christian but was considering Buddhism! You could see God's hand at work in so many places!
  • I got to attend some of the classes, but I also got to do some video work in preparation for next year's Spring Showcase (our huge fundraiser to send students to SICM), and our UTD senior staff got to have some really productive times planning for next school 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

[metaphorically] Gardening!

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. 
  • He's been showing me that I'm a campus minister, but I'm not here to help people be disciples in college. I'm here to be used by God to help people become the kinds of disciples who grow in their faith for a lifetime. I can't take anything close to full credit or full responsibility for the rest of someone's life as a disciple, but that's the kind of perspective I want to have. God's showing me that I have a lot to learn here.
  • God's been showing me that I still have a lot to learn about love. It can be easy to assign different attributes to God (love, justice, mercy, etc.), and then to attempt to know Him by learning about those things, but if He really is the source of Truth, then I should really be seeking to learn about what love is by getting to know Him more. 
  • I recently finished taking a Financial Peace University class with a bunch of people from our family of churches, and God has been challenging me a lot in how I spend my money. I've never been stingy with people, but I have never been stingy with myself. That coffee I bought, that bedframe I don't need but haven't sold, and those pants I forgot to return for 30 days are all little innocent (or not-so-innocent) examples of me poorly stewarding the resources God has given me. God's growing me up in this area :)

Here are the people I went through Financial Peace University with. The dedication and humility of these people challenged and inspired me a lot!

Alumni Night
A picture of everyone who showed up to Alumni Night

Katy Jordan, a FOCUS graduate who works on campus at UTD and has continued to be a leader in our ministry for several years, organized an Alumni Night, where- you guessed it- alumni came to our large-group service! It was so cool to see a bunch of FOCUS grads- many of whom I was a student leader with, and a handful of whom now have kids. It was a great reminder that we're not just shaping college students as disciples- we're shaping future accountants, computer programmers, artists, missionaries, mothers, and fathers. 

  • Please pray for our students as they enter the dreaded season of finals. Many of them are exhausted from the semester, and we want them to finish well.
  • Pray for our students to be purposeful in the last month they have to disciple one another before many of them move back to their hometowns for the summer.
  • Pray for our students to be purposeful in planning how to grow closer to God this summer!