Monday, May 18, 2020

My Comforter, my All in All

What a crazy time we live in. I hope everyone is doing alright in this time! I know that times are unprecedented and fear and uncertainty is high, but remember that there is nothing that this world can throw at us that our God has not already overcome. If there is anyone in need or anyone in pain, I would jump at the chance to be the first to be able to offer help in any way. 

Transitions


You would think that shelter-in-place would have meant a slight reprieve from work. But no! Over the past two months, I've worked harder than ever. Making the transition from in-person to online, and keeping up with so many relationships when there are no more natural touch-points adds up! We had to shift and communicate to our students all the changes that were happening. We knew that many of them would fall off without structure in their lives and we tried our best to give them some while they were staying at home unexpectedly.


Livestreaming



We built a soundstage in my brother's garage in just a week and we've been online and live-streaming ever since! We've since moved to the church since summer started but if you haven't checked us out already we stream every Thursday at 7:30pm at twitch.tv/utdfocus! 

Small Group


My core has also moved to zoom every week, and thankfully we've had pretty consistent attendance. These guys have filled my heart with such joy this year because of their love for one another. We just had our last one where we ended the year with encouragements. Every year I've led core, we've always ended with encouragements. In our society, men seem to be discouraged from speaking their feelings and from expressing their love for one another. So every year, it's always so impactful to hear them speak to one another with love.

Thank You!


Thank you guys so much for supporting me another school year. None of these experiences would be possible without your support. Even the extra work is fulfilling because I know that my efforts honor God. Please, please, please don't hesitate to reach out if there is anything that I can pray for you about. God knows there's lots to pray about these days. But we can trust that his purposes will be fulfilled and that his plan is better than any we can think of. "because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us." (Romans 5:3-5).






Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Here in the Love of Christ I Stand


A Word of Hope

A lot has changed in the past few weeks, and everything is up-ended. The world as we know it is different, campus ministry looks different now, but what hasn't changed is God's sovereignty and that people need him. It's often in the grim times that people realize their need for God a whole lot more than when they think they have life under control. 

It's times like these when I think of James 1:2-4, "Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything." 

As well as Genesis 50:20 when Joseph is responding to his brothers realizing that he's in a position of power that could save them and their families from famine because they sold him into slavery decades ago when he was a boy. "You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives."

However, "the saving of many lives" seems inappropriate for such a time as this. But we as followers
of Jesus believe and can say

"'Death has been swallowed up in victory.'

'Where, O death, is your victory?
Where, O death, is your sting?'

The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ."


We don't believe death is final. We believe that Jesus has conquered even death. And we believe that he's coming again to make all things right. That is why in the face of an unknown future, we can have hope and we can have stability because we've built our houses on the rock. 

Changes


So, what has changed for campus ministry? Unfortunately, many of our students have gone home for good now. UTD has extended spring break an extra week (the students are only halfway through their first week), and they're moving to online classes for the foreseeable future. The University is also kicking out students on campus unless they have no suitable alternative (not sure how tenable that will be). FOCUS has had to cancel the outreach trips from Washington we had planned on hosting because the campuses were shutting down the week they were coming. SICM is up in the air right now as we wait and see what happens. Social distancing measures have been put into place and we are working on and figuring out how to have our FOCUS core group and large group meetings move to online format. We're continuing to have our one-on-one Bible studies continue in-person if possible or over the phone. But not only are we figuring out how to continue doing what we normally do, we're also trying to discern what opportunities God may want us to take advantage of in this unusual time. We're not satisfied with just doing Plan B of everything we usually do, doing everything but in a suboptimal way. I firmly believe that there are opportunities that we wouldn't usually have because of the circumstances. Already, I've heard of core groups where guys who came once or twice and have been wildly inconsistent and flaky throughout the year come out of the woodwork and be excited to join the group again. There's something in us that, when times like these happen, we want to know we're not alone, that there are people ready and willing to walk beside us. And I hope and pray that all of you have that as well.

Thank you all so much for all your support, through finances, through prayer, through emotional support. I couldn't do this without you. And in the coming weeks, what I do will be different, but people need Jesus. Now, seemingly more than ever. Students don't typically do too well over breaks when they don't have structure and they don't have this community to spur them on to love and good deeds. So pray, please pray, that we can meet their needs in that, that the good news could be dispersed and preached because of their migration home, not dispelled and kept distant. Instead of bemoaning the loss of students this school year, I choose instead to be thankful for the time I did get to be with them, develop relationships with them, and make memories with them. 

Wednesday, January 8, 2020

In Christ Alone, Who Took On Flesh



Hey everybody, it's been a busy time in campus ministry followed by a restful time! 

Core!


We've finished the fall semester and it's been amazing what God has accomplished. I've gotten to lead Core, which is our small group, this year and gotten to know a lot of guys on the fringes of our community or for many of them the first time they've been part of a Christian community. The last time I led Core was almost 5 years ago and I had forgotten how much time and mental and emotional energy it takes to think purposefully about a bunch of guys who may or may not be taking their faith seriously. But it is such a rewarding part of the job: to get to have a bunch of guys to think and pray about, to lead through their various struggles and celebrations in life, to live with and grow with. It's a role and experience that I would love to be able to do for the rest of my life. Please pray for each of them: Andrew, David, Esosa, Jackson, John, Jose, Luke, Mark, Michael, Nick, other Nick, Oliver, Stephen, Suvi, and Tim. All of us need Jesus, and all of us need good brothers and sisters who can be Jesus to us, show him to us, and grow us to be like him. 



Celebrations!

In the last month of last semester we had four students ask to be baptized! As a college ministry, some of our students have already been baptized when they were in high school, some choose to be baptized at their home churches, but we talk to everyone about the importance of baptism and the sacrament that it is in our beliefs as Christians. So some of them, like the four last December, choose to be baptized by our campus pastors in various swimming pools at people's houses or on campus. It's an exciting and community-building time when students will take time out of the middle of their day to show up at the side of a pool to hear how Jesus has been transforming and redeeming their fellow brothers and sisters. Thank you guys for being a part of this and making campus ministry possible. 

Personal Notes
My brother and I spent the holiday season here in Texas because of his work. But we were welcomed in by friends who hosted us in their homes so that we wouldn't have to be alone. I'm so thankful for community and for family here in Texas. Emily and I are still dating, we just crested seven months! We've been doing our best to date well, with accountability, and as an example to students in the ministry on how to date in a Godly manner. Please continue praying for me as we navigate this realm of dating. And please pray for me and my family as I'm beginning to miss them quite a bit.

Thursday, September 26, 2019

Fullness of God in Helpless Babe


Welcome Week

Wow, September has flown by fast. The beginning of the year is always such a whirlwind! Hundreds of hours and thousands of students cross by our paths in the first two weeks and we want to be faithful to what God has been doing in each of them. Only a few hundred end up coming to our small groups and large fellowships, but we get to be a step in each one's faith journey if we pay attention to what God is doing. 


This year we took a few risks on new events targeted towards specific ethnicities. We had a Latinx event and an Asian-American event. It's our belief that God's kingdom is a diverse community with all of our similarities and differences a reflection of his character. However, it's human nature to gravitate towards those with whom we are most similar, so we wanted to take a chance to cast a vision of what it might be like if we all pushed into some discomfort and expended more effort in trying to live in community with one another. And I have already seen it pay dividends! I heard one latino student say that he was dismissive of all the advertising that he saw on campus that FOCUS had put on. He said that his thoughts were, "Who's gonna go to that event?" And then he saw an advertisement for our Lotéria Latinx event and was so excited that there was something tailored for him on this campus. This is just a small story of the need that ethnicities have to feel like they belong. But we want to expand that feeling of belonging to God's people not just one culture.  



Core

This is the first time in over three years that I've had an opportunity to lead a small group, what we call our cores. It's an intense job with a huge time investment, so as I took on more responsibilities it became less and less likely or strategic for me to lead one. However, sometimes it's not about doing the most strategic and/or efficient thing. God often works in inefficient people and ways that look less than ideal for us. This has always been one of my favorite parts of the job, to be the boots on the ground and to walk with students as they take some of their first steps on their own faith journey. So I have been so excited to get to do it again this year. In my core I have 16 guys. There are Christians and non-Christians, white, black, latino, and asian, they range from 17 years old to 26 years old, computer science majors to literature, and they've been entrusted to me for this year just as I have been entrusted to them. They have bonded faster than any core I've ever led. Core lasts about 1.5 hours every week, and yet from the very first week, these strangers who just met and became friends have hung out for 2+ hours afterwards most weeks. They have found and fulfilled a need that many of them didn't realize: a community of men who will encourage and challenge and love one another. And this all through the grace of God. 


Thank You!


Thank you guys so much for all that you do for me and all the support you give to me. Because of you, I get to do kingdom work here, and I love doing it. Because of you, students are getting to hear the gospel the first time, they are getting to experience real friendship for the first time, they are getting to be leaders for the first time. 

P.S.

In other news, I am dating someone! Just wanted to let you all know. Her name is Emily and we have been dating for four months now. I'm sure we will be talking about her whenever we may meet next. Just wanted to keep everyone in the loop!

















Wednesday, August 14, 2019

This Gift of Love and Righteousness Scorned by the Ones He Came to Save

Hey everyone! I feel like it's been a while since I've posted a public blog and updated you on what's going on in my life beyond just the thoughts in my head. 

This summer was full of planning and prepping for the new school year. We had Summer FOCUS going on, I had seminary to do, and a whole slew of changes for the ministry. This coming year we've got big changes in the way do our two services, the way we split our cores, and we have a new one-on-one Bible study! Focus on Jesus has been updated! Obviously, we think these changes are for the best, but each one requires a lot of planning on how it's going to change the way we do things and have ripple effects on everything else. We're excited, but there are a lot of balls in the air that need to be juggled. 

And now we're heading into the new school year! Just last night we had our first event welcoming the new freshmen who are moving in. Because school hasn't started there are very few things to do for these students until next week. And yet the first few days of the college experience are crucial in the mental and emotional lives of these kids. Their parents just left, they're in a new place, and they know very few people if any. We want to provide a loving community to them, and even if they don't choose to join our FOCUS community, to at least have had a great first experience in college. We can downplay the importance of just a small interaction when we don't see the immediate fruit. But I trust that God can work through even fun events like a board game night to reveal himself to people. That people might remember this time when they felt loved and special and that it was Christians who cared about them. 

In the coming weeks, we'll have a whole lot more events to do and hundreds of new people to meet! To the right is one of our Personal Invite cards that students keep handy to give to people they meet. It has our official events (which constitute only half of the total events we do!) that we're allowed to advertise. Please, please, please pray for each and every one of them. And for each of our 60 student leaders and dozens of returning students who are sold out for Christ and getting out of their comfort zones to meet new students. I know that your prayers will work wonders in these next few weeks.


In other news, my father came to Texas to visit me and my brother! It was such a great time to show him around Dallas and invite him into the life that we've built here. If any of y'all ever want to come visit, I would be very excited to host you! 
Thank you all so much for your continued support! It means so much to me that you would invest in God's kingdom here in Dallas. Thank you to all my old donors for sticking by me all this time and to the new ones coming on this year! 










Saturday, April 20, 2019

Til on that Cross as Jesus Died, the Wrath of God was Satisfied

This month, in the spirit of Good Friday and Easter, I'd like to talk about a dear friend of mine who has passed away. I'll return to giving y'all an update on the ministry next month. It's taken me some time to compile my thoughts. And I wanted to come to his defense right after it happened, but I couldn't come up with the words to do so then. I hope that the few words and thoughts I have now can be sufficient. A few months ago, my friend was plastered all over the news and there was a whole national conversation about him. His name was John Chau. If you haven't read his story, here is one of the many articles about him. I grew up with John in Washington throughout middle and high school. We went to youth group together. We played airsoft one time. We even went to a Major League Soccer game together in college. When I first heard the news, it was surreal. I didn't and still don't really understand death. John and I had not talked to each other in quite a few years, and it wouldn't have surprised me if we never would again. But now, there is not even a sliver of a chance that that will happen in this life. In the days following the news, old friends and childhood acquaintances reached out and talked to each other and consoled one another in our memory of John. And then the media backlash began. People accusing John of stupidity, of recklessness, of "white savior" mentality. Despite it all being relatively refuted in the weeks to come, people wouldn't change their minds because we no longer form opinions based on objectivity and facts, we form opinions and then find "facts" to uphold our own subjectivity. That's postmodernism, isn't it? But we learned that John had planned and prepared for his mission, that he had quarantined himself to best prevent transmitting illness, and that John is half-white so we can't feel entirely justified in scapegoating his ethnicity. But there were disgusting attacks on his character, evil remarks, and debased joking about the way that he died. 

"You will be hated by everyone because of me, but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved." (Matthew 10:22)


And it wasn't just non-Christians. Christians were participating in it too, making apologies for uncultured, unenlightened "extremists". But what was John extreme about? He wanted to preach the gospel to one of the last unreached people groups in the world. And what? That makes us Christians uncomfortable? When did we stop believing that Jesus was the only way? When did we stop believing that we have truth that the rest of the world needs? When did we stop believing that we should be taking risks, should be uncomfortable, and should expect to be hated and persecuted for the the good news of Christ? We've bought into postmodernism. "Truth is relative. You can have your truth and I'll have mine. I won't infringe on yours if you won't infringe on mine." Lies. We have the truth. Not because we're better, not because we're good, but because of God's grace alone. Whether we are a postmodern American with 21st-century technology or an isolated tribe on a small island, without Jesus we don't have truth, we don't have life. 

"Jesus answered, 'I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.'" (John 14:6)


I believe so much of this backlash, so much of our discomfort is because we've lost sight of the gospel. The gospel is not a put-together Sunday service, the gospel is not good, emotional music, the gospel is not clean. The gospel is a poor, dirty teacher walking the countrysides calling people to repent and believe the good news: that God is on their side if they would only welcome him, the gospel is blood and flesh dripping and ripped apart while God himself suffocates on a tree, and the gospel is an empty tomb without fanfare, when God said that death is not final and that he can show us a way through it, a way to life to the full, a life everlasting. 

"For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him will not perish but have eternal life." (John 3:16)


John died breaking the law. John seems to have died in disgrace. But John died doing what is right. I have faith that I'll see him again in the resurrection. 

"Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey all that I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age" (Matthew 28:19-20)

Tuesday, March 5, 2019

For Every Sin on Him was Laid

Winter Camp


I know I've spoken to you about winter camp already, but I wanted to take another opportunity to brag on how amazing this community is. To have a college ministry where so many students are hungry to learn and to grow is such an encouragement, and I hope that you are encouraged to be a part of what God is doing here as well. Around 600 students showed up to pour into one another and to listen from Dr. John Stackhouse. What an experience!

Prayer


This leads me to ask for prayers about a very amorphous topic: that our students would be on mission. I've been thinking and reflecting a lot recently on an axiom: when you aim for community, you'll sometimes get it. When you aim for mission, you'll almost always get community. I believe that community is essential to Jesus' mission, but all too often we end up focusing on the community rather than allowing it to form naturally when we're on mission together. Our students sacrifice so much and dedicate so much to be a part of God's kingdom on this campus, but I know that we, myself included, can fall into thinking that it's for the sake of friendship and community that we want to bring people in. We see the impact that true, deep, and whole friendships have on us that we want that for other people. But it's really in the pursuit of Jesus that such things happen. When we come in for the sake of friendship we don't really turn away from our selfishness, it's still focused on me and what I can get. But when we come into community looking for ways to bless others, to worship God, to see his purposes fulfilled in others' lives, then we finally deny ourselves and see real community formed. So I'd like to ask for your prayers, because that's a lot easier said than done. We've been pushing events such as worship nights, Scripture reading nights, prayer walks, and the like to form disciples who are catching the vision. Pray for continued growth in this area! 

Friendship


That being said, I have seen what friendships can look like when you're on mission together. I wanted to take a little space to talk about my boss, mentor, and dear friend Brandon. He has walked with me since I was still a college student, and he has been encouraging and challenging me for years. He's been there when I've fallen hard, and he's supported me to do things that I never thought I'd be doing. To be on mission together makes the relationship that much sweeter, and I thank God for Brandon's friendship. I pray that we can all be more open and vulnerable with each other, to risk being hurt, to develop authentic and deep friendships with each other. 

Thank You!


Thank you for allowing me to be a part of this ministry! Because of your support I'm able to meet with students and see their hearts being transformed to be like God's. Thank you for believing in me and in God's mission here in Dallas!