Thursday, April 1, 2021

Enough

One of our students, Ari, helping us deflate a giant beach ball after an outdoor outreach event!

"Our Father in heaven,
Hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
And forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from the evil one."
Matthew 6:9-13 (NIV)

"But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that."
1 Timothy 6:8 (NIV)

"Said the robin to to the sparrow,
'I should really like to know,
Why these anxious human beings
Rush about and worry so."
Said the sparrow to the robin,
"Friend I think that it must be,
That they have no heavenly Father
Such as cares for you and me."
The Robin and the Sparrow by Elizabeth Cheney


So far this year, God has been challenging my conception of what is "enough." He has been exposing the myriad of ways in which I seek to twist and stretch towards a life that is convenient, satisfying, and exciting. He is exposing the ways in which I feel like I "deserve" a certain kind of food or entertainment or appreciation after a long day or a hard week. 

One of the biggest ways in which God challenged me was by giving me the opportunity to preach on a single line of the Lord's Prayer: "Give us today our daily bread." In short, He showed how when we learn to bypass our own pride-and-fear-driven desire for gain, we give space for God to show us that He is giving us what we need, and we are able to enter into the truly abundant life of sacrificial Kingdom-love that Jesus typifies and leads us in. If you're curious about this and would like to hear more, you can find this sermon here: https://www.thenortheastchurch.com/content.cfm?id=315&download_id=1443 (it starts at around the 20 minute mark in the audio). 

Showcase

Every year, FOCUS sends over a hundred students who have demonstrated faithfulness, availability, teachability, initiative, and a heart for God and people to a week-long leadership training conference called the Student Institute of Campus Ministry (SICM). This year, instead of sending students to Washington state for SICM (to a wonderful ministry near Seattle called Campus Christian Fellowship), we will be hosting our own version near San Antonio. SICM was influential and formative in my own development as a disciple when I was a student. 

Showcase is the main way we help these students offset the cost of room, board, and travel so they can give God and one another their undivided attention over the course of a full week. It's going to be live-streamed THIS Saturday from 6:30-8:30 on anyfocus.org/showcase!

I've had the pleasure this year of writing two original songs that will be featured during Showcase, as well as being a part of the tech team. I think we've got something very special planned, so I would highly encourage you to join us. 

I had the chance to record a song for Showcase in an actual recording
studio a couple of weeks ago! It will be "debuting" on Saturday.




Seminary

I've had the enormous blessing and opportunity to begin online classes at Fuller Theological Seminary this week! I plan on working towards my Masters of Divinity with a focus in Biblical Theology over the next several years. I'm excited and grateful to see what I learn through the lectures, reading, discussions, and times of prayer that this will lead me through, and I trust that God will use it to grow me in knowledge and love for Him and His people. 


Students
A student leader (and incoming FOCUS apprentice) named David and I line
 our faces up on a Zoom call to create this terrifying image.

We've had to get creative this whole year, but as more students receive the vaccine, we are finding that more opportunities are beginning to open up to spend time with students. While there are a lot of grave and deep conversations that happen in the course of discipleship, there is also a lot of laughter as we build friendships and enjoy the quirkiness and zest that college students bring to the people around them each year. 

Prayer
  • This year brings a lot of life-transitions with it. I plan on getting married and moving to an apartment with my future wife Kaylee this summer, in addition to starting seminary and preparing for a year of more normalcy on campus. My body tends to react to transitions and stressors like this through anxiety and health problems, and I've noticed some of that lately. Please pray for me to find strength in God, to have wisdom to handle these transitions well, and to have a heart for others during this season. Also pray for the people around me to have patience on my bad days :)
  • Please pray for continued protection for our students. But thank the Lord for how good He has been to us so far!
  • Please pray for Showcase to be a success, and (more importantly) for SICM this year to be safe and impactful for our students. 












Tuesday, February 9, 2021

The Gospel

"Behold Your King"
The second station of the cross from an outdoor sculpture garden at the Museum of Biblical Art

"God showed how much he loved us by sending his one and only Son 
into the world so that we might have eternal life through him.
This is real love—not that we loved God, but that he loved us 
and sent his Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins."
1 John 4:9-10

"To fix beliefs or ideas in someone's mind, especially by repeating them often"
Definition of "inculcate" from the Cambridge Advanced Learner's Dictionary

"To stamp in, to form upon, to impress"
Etymology of "inculcate"

Over the last month or so (but really for much longer than that), God has been pushing me to-you guessed it- inculcate the Gospel in myself. I think it can be easy to think that once we have read the Bible, accepted the Good News, and even "taken ownership" of the Good News, our work of absorbing the Gospel is done.

However, a quick look at our fears, our insecurities, our beliefs, our doubts, and our identities shows that although we hold onto the Gospel and are held onto by the Gospel, the truth of the Good News doesn't pervade our thinking in the way we would like it to. This has been my experience all too often. Headlines about a worsening pandemic overshadow the hope of redemption. Stories of Christians putting their faith in politicians (on either side of the aisle) overshadow the hope that Jesus so obviously had for his Body, the Church. Constantly being confronted with my fragility and weakness overshadows the trust that God could know me, love me, and (here's the craziest one) use me. 

I wonder if this kind of situation is why churches throughout history have leaned into consistent liturgy so heavily. I wonder if that's why I could visit my grandparents' Lutheran church this Sunday and hear the same creeds, songs, and prayers that I heard 20 years ago when I couldn't even see over the pew in front of me. God has been teaching me the extent to which the world muddies the living waters of the Gospel.

I don't always trust God with all of my heart, soul, mind, and strength.
Not only is that something God has grace for- it's something He isn't at all surprised about.
I (and all of us) can choose to be purposeful about finding ways to preach the Good News to ourselves and to one another regularly. 

I've been developing a personal liturgy- a set of five scriptural truths, each with two accompanying verses that I read out loud to myself daily, and I've been encouraging the students I meet with to do the same.


Idolatry
A moment from our introductory sermon on idolatry. We've since spoken on the idolatry of entertainment and beauty.



We've been teaching on some of the many things that we as humans tend to idolize. I would highly recommend watching some of these if you have the time!

Prayer
  • Please pray for continued safety for our students and their families during this pandemic.
  • Please pray for opportunities to reach students on campus. The lack of campus life and the cold weather has made that difficult, but God has been faithful! One of the small groups whose leaders I've been mentoring has doubled in size over the last month.
  • Please pray for conviction and wisdom for our students as they seek to follow God well without the normal structure school provides (most classes are currently asynchronous).