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.