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.  


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. 


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!


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! 


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.


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!