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!



Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Here in the Death of Christ I Live


Hey everyone! I hope your holiday season went amazingly. It's been a nice break in the year to take a breather from the go-go-go of everyday life and to just rest and be and let God be God. I spent Christmas day skyping my family, with a friend's family, and then some one-on-one time with my brother. Christmases without family are different, but in the end the holiday is still not about family. I had some thoughts on it from a brief message I gave to my church:
Today we’re starting our advent series. Now advent generically just means the arrival of a notable person, thing, or event; and for us it has become synonymous with this season leading up to Christmas. This time is filled with anticipation, another way of saying hopeful waiting, hopeful that the day is coming and that it’s going to be good and it’s going to be everything you ever dreamed it would be. I still remember when I was 7 and we were going to have our first Christmas. It was the first time that I can remember that we had a tree and presents underneath it. And we couldn’t wait, we wanted Christmas to start at midnight because we couldn’t stand the waiting. I think we eventually got a compromise at like 6am, which sounds worse to me than midnight. And that was the year just after Bionicle came out. I don’t know if y’all remember that trend. They were like lego figures in these plastic containers. And my brother and I were really hoping to get one that year. We were shaking and examining our presents, they weren't really the right shape but they were close, but it was soft on the outside instead of hard plastic, so what could it be?



And I’m sure we all have similar stories and experiences. The build up to Christmas. The trees going up in the store, the lights going up outside the house, the Christmas music playing wherever you go, the presents slowly accumulating under the tree, even the incessant ringing of the salvation army bell all adds to the sense that it’s coming, Christmas is coming. And that sense of anticipation, that sense of longing and hopeful waiting is just a fraction of what the Jews felt in regard to their messiah. Century after century they had been anticipating, waiting with hope that a king would come and save them. Parents would gather their children around the fire and tell them the story of the kings, David, Solomon, Zerubbabel, of their mighty deeds, of battles won and battle lost. And through those stories they’d describe this coming messiah, someone who would save his people and make them one again. Who would win back their nation and build them a home where they could belong. A place where God would live with them again and they would be safe. And that generation would pass that beacon of hopeful waiting to the next. And then when he came, he came in a way they weren’t expecting in circumstances they weren’t expecting and he wasn’t everything they hoped he would be, he wasn't everything they wanted, but he was everything they needed.
When we had that first Christmas me and my brother tore into our presents and we did get our Bionicle! Our parents were just tricky and wrapped the container with a package of underwear, you know as parents do. So we got some of what we wanted and some of what we needed. And then after that Christmas, it began the next 364 days of waiting until the next one. And this hopeful waiting is how we are still to live today. Because we know that He is coming again. And it may not be in the way we expect, or in the circumstances we expect, and he may not be everything we want, but he will be everything we need. And that is the hope that we hold from generation to generation.

Hope


So, whether you had a good holiday season or a bad one, I hope we all remember that because he lives we can face tomorrow. There are tough times for us all, "in this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world," but we have our hope in Jesus Christ, the one who was, and is, and is to come. Merry Christmas, Happy New Year, and here's to the new semester!

Friday, November 16, 2018

There in the Ground His Body Lay





Thankfulness


As we head into this season of Thanksgiving (and soon Christmas) I'v been reflecting on thankfulness a lot. We have an axiom in our community that we talk about that says, "Thanks never goes without saying". Too often, factors keep us from expressing our appreciation to people for things they've done in our lives. Oftentimes with parents, children have grown up with a sense of entitlement, that their parents have to take care of them, that unfortunately continues into their adulthood. Sometimes, we don't want to admit that we've been helped or that we needed help so we avoid saying thank you and implying our own helplessness. More often than not, our thoughtlessness means we don't even realize or take the time to reflect ton the ways people have helped us. 

But, thank you is such a big deal. For a long time, Brandon would thank me for doing certain things that were part of my job. Thanks for meeting with those guys, thanks for driving to that thing, thanks for taking the time to do that. And I thought it was unnecessary because it was just part of my job. But over the years I've found that the appreciation, even for the things I should already be doing, makes for a much more positive experience. The things I should be doing become the things that I get to be doing. 
I've seen that play out with people who don't say thank you as well. When I serve people over and over without a thank you it really puts a damper on my willingness to serve them anymore. Even when it's just thoughtlessness, it doesn't alleviate the lack of appreciation. 

And we need to find the little things that we should be appreciating as well! That it's so hard to mobilize the group, be thankful that so many students are a part of the group; that it's hard to plan a lesson because everyone is in such a different place in their spiritual journey, be thankful that we're reaching such a diverse group; or one that I often find myself appreciative about: I'm always so busy and I end up having to do tasks not in my job description, but I get to do campus ministry!

I also want to make sure I express how thankful I am for all of you! Because of your prayers and support, I'm able to be a part of this amazing, vibrant community and be a part of God's work here in DFW. I get to have amazing relationships and experience all that God has here for me. Thank you so much and if you are ever in the area, if you ever have a need or a request of some sort, please let me know! 

My parents surprised me by coming to Texas this year. I invited them to Family Night a few weeks ago, and they said that they wouldn't be able to make it because of the price of airline tickets. I was disappointed as this would be my 8th Family Night that I've attended, but I didn't express that. And then the night came around and my parents surprised me by showing up! It was such a great experience to be able to show them the community I've been a part of all these years. And I tried to express how thankful I was that they'd come all the way down here to see me.






Monday, October 8, 2018

Light of the World by Darkness Slain


Emotions

Emotions. It's a part of life I actively try to avoid. Emotions get in the way of productivity, emotions result in confusion and subjectivity, emotions don't benefit anyone in any way, shape, or form. At least that's what I've convinced myself over the past few years. We have become a culture so infatuated with love as an emotion, or being true to my emotions/feelings, that it's hit a sour note within myself to not be a person ruled by my heart. And that has swung the pendulum the other way. Like most typical American males there are only two emotions: happiness and anger. Any emotion that is not happiness is expressed in anger. But over the past few years, there haven't been many emotions beyond happiness or the occasional frustration, so I didn't realize how big a problem it was until I was confused as all get-out as to what I was feeling this week. Due to a situation in my life, I was overwhelmed with emotion. What emotion? Hard to tell. But that's what made me realize my weakness in this area of life. And especially as we enter the fall season and October Blues, emotions become a big deal in the way we act and relate and our moods overall. Which is why it has been a good (if frustrating) reminder from God that this is one area in my life I need to grow and be transformed in. Emotions do have a purpose. Jesus felt deeply about things, and that affected him. But he used those effects to achieve greater things, they didn't hinder him. How do I help students master their emotions rather than just squash them? 


Fall Camp

In other news, we had our fall camp recently and had a great turn-out! It was slightly showering most of the time, but we still had fun outside and inside. This is typically the time of the year where the students who will stay, stay, and the ones who are flaky, disappear. So please pray as God continues to reveal to all of us the students he wants us to invest in and the ones who will show up as leaders.

Seminary

I'm now in week three of Seminary and it is a beatdown! So much to read and learn, and so many things to keep track of when enrolled online. There's no professor to tell you exactly what is due the next time you meet up, it's just reading and rereading the syllabus to ensure that you aren't missing anything major. I'm enrolled in a New Testament class and a Vocation and Formation class and I can already tell that the VF class is teaching me so much for my own personal disciplines and growth and providing things for me to teach my students as well. Please pray as I continue to balance working and being a student again!

Thank You!

Thank you all so much for your continued support! Without your generosity, this couldn't happen. Because of you I get to do what I love, and be a part of God's kingdom vision here in DFW. Love you all so much and thanks for your constant prayers!

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Then Bursting Forth in Glorious Day

Welcome Week

And here it is: Welcome Week. It's one of the busiest times in campus ministry. As many of you have experienced, it's a time when events are daily and new relationships are formed to change lives. These first two weeks of school an atmosphere unlike any other descends on the campus: one where it's not weird to talk to strangers, not weird to tell your life story, and not weird to exchange numbers and build a relationship. It's an atmosphere of openness unlike any other. And we capitalize on it. Every night we have an event that hundreds of students come to because they're looking for friends. Last week we had multiple board game nights, a pool party, zombie tag, and a worship night. Moving forward we still have a field day, our carpool to church, and our fellowship kickoff. Please pray for continued open hearts and energy for our students as many of them are feeling the fatigue from reaching out to so many new students and balancing their own schoolwork and jobs. I am so thankful that we have students who are so bought into the vision of God's kingdom that they are sacrificing so much of their time to make sure everyone can be invited to God's community. 


Planning Events

For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit.


For the body does not consist of one member but of many. If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would be the sense of hearing? If the whole body were an ear, where would be the sense of smell? But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. If all were a single member, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, yet one body.

The eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you,” nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” On the contrary, the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and on those parts of the body that we think less honorable we bestow the greater honor, and our unpresentable parts are treated with greater modesty, which our more presentable parts do not require. But God has so composed the body, giving greater honor to the part that lacked it, that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together.

Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it.

1 Corinthians 12:12-27

For me, this is also a time of intense work. While I would love to do nothing else than to be a student again and reach out and talk to as many new students as I could, that's no longer what I need to do. I have to think through one priority before I choose to engage in any task: "what are the things that only I can do?" And that isn't entirely accurate, but it encompasses the idea that there are things that lots of people can do: meet new students. We have over 50 student leaders along with many other returning students who are at each of these events meeting new people constantly. What our student leaders can't do is plan an event made for hundreds of people, make it go smoothly, and engender an atmosphere that's conducive to conversation. It's behind-the-scenes work, it's not glamorous, but someone's got to do it. It doesn't mean I don't get to meet students, I get to meet many in fact, but not as many as I used to when my only job was to meet them. But that is what being members of the same body means. Sometimes I get to be the hands, the one who is able to touch others and engage with them. And sometimes I'm the brain, the one who enables the hands to reach out. But without one or the other, all of this becomes extremely hampered. So I do my part with gladness, trusting in others to do their parts as well, and together we all do a better job in expanding God's kingdom. I would encourage you to think about your situation, "what are the things only I can do?" It may be certain people only you have access to, many of you it's probably your families: only you are the father or mother of these individuals, or it might be opportunities to serve that you have the skills or the drive to learn how to do it. No matter what it is, I believe that God's kingdom will be better for it if you prioritize highly the good things He's prepared for you that you are personally equipped to do.

Thank You!

Thank you guys so much for all your support. Fundraising season has wrapped up and I just have a few of you to follow up with and tie things up with a nice, little bow. Through you, God has provided for me for yet another year, so thank you all so much! Because of you, I'm able to do my dream job and work with amazing young adults. I get to witness firsthand the amazing things God is doing here, and I get to be tired doing it =). Please pray for the rest of welcome week and the beginning of the school year: for students to do well and keep up in classes, and to not let a single student slip through the cracks. Please let me know how to pray for you in any way!



Saturday, July 21, 2018

Up From The Grave He Rose Again


Continuing with the challenge of speaking more deeply about my life, I want to share two lessons I've learned from my most recent adopted dog, Rachel. She was picked up off the street and probably came from an abusive home before, and she's been very slow to open up to anyone except me. She often shows her fear through growling and barking. She has less control of her bladder than my other dog, Penny, and is just an overall more needy and difficult dog. And all these things pile up, so sometimes I'm tempted to give her back. But I'm reminded that I made a commitment to take care of her, and that adopting her wasn't supposed to be for me, but for her. And that's the first lesson: it's not about me. Sometimes in ministry I'm tempted to drop a relationship because I'm not enjoying it, I'm not getting anything out of it, or this student is just a drain on my time and energy. But then I'm reminded that Jesus didn't enter into relationships to get anything out of it, but to give, and give without expectation of return. I'm sure that many of you have experienced that with your children: giving, giving, giving without much return. There's definitely lots of joy in there, and moments of excitement, but the relationship is not about how much your child can give back to you, because it's not about you. If we can go into relationships with the mindset of Christ: "honoring one another above yourselves" then we don't need to be worried or frustrated when we don't get anything in return. And if we go into relationships without expectation, then God will consistently surprise us with how he provides: close friends, life-giving friends that you never expected, energy-draining friends who become some of your greatest encouragers. He'll take care of our needs much better than we can, we just need to trust him. Which brings me to the second lesson: we need to trust that he'll take care of us. 

Rachel sleeping in her spot
Now I've only had Rachel for two months. Sometimes it feels like I've had her for a long time, but on the whole I really haven't. But with all her barking and disobedience, I finally had enough and had a dog trainer come and teach me how to teach Rachel to not bark anymore. But what he had me do was not anything that explicitly had to do with the barking, but rather to establish rules and trust in this relationship. He said that Rachel barks and has fear because she doesn't trust someone else to protect her. But by establishing rules, and making sure that she understands that she has to listen to me, I show her that I can be trusted to protect her, that when she listens to me she's better off for it, and that everything within my house is under my control. Nothing happens without my say-so. And through that I can then address the barking when I've established a trust relationship that I not only can protect her, I'm willing to protect her. It reminds me of two stories of Jesus: Mark 9 and Luke 5. In Mark 9, a man with a demon-possessed son says to Jesus, "'If you can do anything, take pity on us and help us.'" and Jesus responds to him, "'If you can?'...'Everything is possible for one who believes .'" and the boy's father replies, "I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!" And in Luke 5 a leper comes to Jesus asking to be healed and he prefaces it by saying, 'If you are willing..." These are the two things I'm trying to communicate to Rachel, that I can protect her and that I will protect her. 

With college roommate, Kash, for our annual date night
And that's why the second lesson is remembering that he'll take care of us. God has to remind us so many times that he's got it: that he can be trusted, that we're better off when we listen to him, and that everything in this universe is under his control. But so many of us, Christians and non-Christians alike of thinking that God is a judgmental God, a wrathful God, an aloof God. But if we believe that Jesus is the perfect representation of God, that the "mystery of God" is revealed through him, then what he is like is what we should believe God is like. We must remember that God is able to do things like transform lives, calm anxieties and overcome depression, to replace hearts of stone with hearts of flesh. And that God is willing to do all those things for us. That God is not high and mighty, but a God who stepped down into this world because he loved us so much. That he not only can heal your wounds, but wants to. That he's not sitting in his tower waiting for you to fess up to your mistakes and come home tail tucked between your legs, but he's running to you the moment he sees your face. That's our God. One who is able and willing to live and walk alongside us. 

With my favorite little buddy, Lauren
And I'm only able to realize these things because of your support in my mission here. Thank you all so much for supporting me. It has been a very fulfilling and amazing experience to work full-time for FOCUS and help build God's kingdom here in DFW. There's so much planning and changes coming up for the next school year, and I'll tell you all more about it when we get there! It's only because of your generosity that I get to do this, and I am so grateful to all of you for your financial gifts and your prayers. You all mean so much to me, and I hope that you know that you are a part of what we're doing out here no matter where in the US or the world you may be. 



Monday, June 25, 2018

And As He Stands in Victory

I was challenged by one of my supporters and friends this week to start being more vulnerable in my blogs. He said he wanted to hear the "deep thoughts" that occurred behind the scenes. So here's my attempt to bring you all into my inner world. 

Personal Thoughts


For a long time I've wanted to die young. I know, pretty morbid. Twenty-five to 30 years of age sounded about right to me. And if I could, I wanted to go out a hero: saving a stroller from in front of a bus, taking a shot meant for someone else, something that people would remember me by. But this past weekend I got to go to my church's kids camp: Jesus and Me (JaM) Camp. And as I sat at breakfast on the second day I thought, this is an amazing experience. I never went to summer camp as a kid. I didn't know what really to expect beyond having to take care of a bunch of six- and seven-year-olds, and all the work that entails. But as I warmed up to the kids and they to me, and I participated in this adult culture of unconditional love to all of these kids, I started to thank God for allowing me to live long enough to experience this. And that got me to realizing how selfish wanting to die young is: I wanted to be remembered, I wanted to be significant. But I'm only one person in history. And the vast majority of people in history are not remembered for very long. But God remembers each one. And my insignificant actions become significant only because He does something very powerful with them. And now all I want to do is ask God to allow me to live long enough to experience and take advantage of all he has in store for me: blessings like this past weekend and opportunities to serve others like this past weekend was as well. Blessing and enjoyment are not mutually exclusive to being a servant to others, and oftentimes they overlap. Valuable things are costly. And the children that I got to serve this past weekend were so valuable to me, even when we started off the weekend as complete strangers. And every cost of teaching them how to shower, comforting them as they cried, picking up after them and goading them into eating their food was worth it. I can only thank God for giving me that experience and pray that I get to experience that with my own kids one day. But it also opened my eyes to how much God is taking care of us from day one. These kids are experiencing unconditional love from people other than their parents and because of that, they are going to go through life knowing that there are people out there who will love them because they're worth it. The students that I get to interact with daily have various degrees of experiencing that, but have just as much of a need of it as these littles ones do. While I don't typically show my love for them by giving them piggyback rides or accompanying them to the bathroom, the actions I choose to do hopefully communicate the fact that I love them because they're worth it. 

Seminary 


For those of you that I haven't met with this summer yet, I have an announcement to make. Starting this Fall I'll be attending Fuller Theological Seminary to pursue my Master of Divinity degree! I'll be taking their online classes so that I can continue being a campus minister at UTD, but I'm excited to be a student again. Please pray for the time, motivation, energy, and finances to come together as I apply for scholarships and ask for people to continue or start joining my support team for this coming school year. 

Dogs 


And a second announcement: I have adopted two dogs! The brown one is Penny and the black one is Rachel. I'm very excited to be a homeowner. After being a dad, being a dog-owner has probably been my second biggest dream as a child. So, while all my dreams are surrendered to the Lord to do with as He wishes, I'm glad He has at least allowed me to fulfill this one. Penny is perfect, but Rachel is still very rough around the edges as she came from a rescue organization and most likely has experienced a life of abuse. So it will take a lot of time and effort to get her to trust people, but I have confidence she will one day!

Thank You!


And so thank you to everyone who I have been given the opportunity to be your friend. Thank you for your support, thank you for your love, thank you are everything. I thank God every time I think of you, and the privilege He has given me to serve Him full-time, and that He has placed in my life so manny good friends, mentors, and people who love me. Many of you are those very adults who showed a little boy that people other than his parents unconditionally loved him. And when that boy became a campus minister, you showed up again when he asked you to consider supporting him. Thank you so much for all that you have done for me. I love you all so much.