Thursday, December 1, 2011

December Update

The year is nearly half over.  It's sad to think that the time has gone so quickly, but I'm glad to have seen that God used it for a lot of good.

I wanted to start out my update this month with a picture of my core group:

These are some of the people that you are impacting through your support.  They are such neat guys!  Some of them I have known for a few years and others only a few months.  There are so many different interests and personalities, but despite all of that we are unified in Christ.  That is one of the coolest things about the body of Christ.  Our relationships don't rely on surface level activities, but on our mutual interest in learning about and following God.  Sure we can talk about those things, but ultimately our reason for being together has a higher purpose.

We have made it halfway through the beatitudes in core now.  There is so much depth in what Jesus says in Matthew 5:3-10!  This week we discussed dating as an extension of the conversation in our last large group meeting.  The discussion involved comparing the following Biblical principles to the normal pattern of dating seen in the world and even in many Christian communities:

1. Consider others better than yourself.  Philippians 2:3-4; John 13:14-15
2. We should not have even a hint of sexual immorality. Ephesians 5:3; 1 Timothy 5:1-2
3. Attraction (created within ourselves and what we look for) should be based on Godly characteristics instead of outward appearances. 1 Peter3:3-4; 1 Timothy 2:8-9, 4:8-9
4. Be wise and seek advice! Ephesians 5:15-17; Proverbs 12:1, 15

Discussing these principles was not an extensive conversation about dating, but our purpose was to create some thought and conversation within our community about healthy dating that glorifies God.

Last month I talked about how Kenneth had some personal issues going on in his life and he had decided to take a step back from being involved in our community.  He did say that he wanted to continue studying the Bible together, but we were not able to schedule a time to do so until last week.  The good news is that we actually met last week!  And we have a weekly time scheduled again.  On top of that he decided to start coming to the large group meeting again after we talked about his reasoning for not coming.  Overall, he is really striving to challenge himself amidst the current stresses that he is dealing with.  Please pray for his work situation, relationship with his parents, and perseverance in following Jesus.

I am still meeting up with Thibault occasionally to maintain that friendship and he continues to struggle with his belief in God.  He says that he thinks there probably is a God, but he doesn't see any evidence.  I think it's important to invest time with him so maybe he will see God through our friendship.  There is another guy that I have been meeting with named Kalub who is non-religious.  I met him on campus during the first week of the semester.  We have some very good discussions about life and meaning regardless of our conflicting beliefs.  Please pray for both of these guys that God will reveal himself to them in his own way at the right time.  Also pray that I will be willing to do what God wants in those relationships.

We are starting to prepare for our winter camp, which is one of the most important events for starting off next semester effectively.  We plan it on Martin Luther King, Jr. weekend every year for the extra day of no class/work.  Our goal is to focus on spending time with each other in order to build community and be saturated in the Word together.  We really strive to have every student come and be involved.  Please pray that each student sees the importance of that time and will join us.

One last thing to pray about is the winter break from classes.  During the break students generally have a significant amount of free time and are around their families more often.  It's a really important time to take advantage of because the stress of classes is temporarily relieved allowing them to invest more time in their families and friends.  We always encourage our students to be purposeful in serving their parents and siblings at home and fostering meaningful conversation during that time rather than merely entertaining themselves.  Before Thanksgiving I decided my main goal when spending time with my parents is to make sure that I open up about meaningful things in my life and ask thought provoking questions in order to learn more about them.  Over Thanksgiving I asked my parents some deeper questions and discovered a few things that I never knew about them.  I want to encourage all of you to invest your time in loving God and the people around you during the holidays because it produces a tremendous return on investment.  May we all learn to apply the following to our lives more and more:

Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?
Jesus replied: "'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.'  This is the first and greatest commandment.  And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.'  All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments. (Matthew 22:36-40)

Thank you again for all of your continued support and prayers.  I hope you each have a wonderful time with family and friends this Christmas!  I will keep you in my prayers and ask that you do the same for me.

Yours for the Campus,


Tuesday, November 1, 2011

November Update


My favorite part about being a part of a ministry like ours is getting to develop deeper, tight-knit relationships with the guys in my core group.  Most weeks I get to meet with 5-10 college students one-on-one in order to learn about each other, discuss personal issues, and/or study the Bible.  Last week I met with 5 different guys individually in one day and afterward helped one of my peer team guys study the Bible with another guy in our core.  I remember thinking the week was going to be painfully busy, but that one day gave me so much energy.  I think it's pretty common for any of us to dread something that in reality will give us joy.  Last year when I was working full-time I was periodically tempted to cancel one-on-one Bible studies due to exhaustion after working 8-9 hours.  The ironic thing was during the studies I regained my strength and actually felt better.  I encourage you to keep that in mind the next time you are faced with a similar decision.

Last week in core we started talking about the beatitudes (Matthew 5:3-10).  It's really exciting to me, because I believe these few verses to have incredible depth and provide insight into who Jesus was as well as what he expects of his disciples.  We have only talked about the first one so far: Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.  The word "spirit" here means human desire so it's basically saying that the people who do not own any of their own desires are blessed.  The best metaphor for this in my opinion is that we need to empty ourselves of ourselves so that God can fill that space.  In the coming weeks, my co-leader and I are trying to think of how we can practice service to others within our group.  Please be in prayer for God to guide us in this.

We also usually spend about 10 minutes sharing "good news" each time we meet, which essentially means that anyone who wants can tell the group about something good that happened recently in their lives or ways they have seen God move.  I believe this is important because it helps us to refocus our minds on good things and God rather than negative things.  For some people this is a really challenging exercise and it's intended for those people.  It's easy for us to fall into the trap of negativity.

The guy who is leading core with me is named Austin and this is his first year to be a leader.  In a lot of ways he reminds me of myself because he has a lot of heart, but wasn't really effectively investing his life into others' until challenged to do so.  I have been spending time teaching him how to lead discussion in core group and dig into people's lives in order to teach them.  It's exciting to see him being stretched as he takes on a lot of new responsibilities.  

Two of the peer team guys are in my core as well.  One is from the Ivory Coast in Africa and the other started coming to FOCUS his junior year in high school.  Both of them have taken on quite a bit more responsibility as well.  They have both been invested in quite a bit by other leaders in the ministry and they are starting to understand what it meant as they pay it forward.  I think that's a pretty important aspect of following Christ; so often we are just doing what's been done to us.  For example, we are ultimately trying to follow Christ's example as Christians.  He laid down his life for us so now we lay down our lives for others.  This is something important to think about in your own life as well.

I wanted to update you on Kenneth also.  He is dealing with a handful of personal issues and consequently has decided that he isn't going to come to core or the FOCUS large group meetings any longer.  He still wants to continue our one-on-one Bible study, but it has become increasingly difficult to get a hold of him.  Please continue to pray for him.  Ask God to keep molding his heart and to help resolve some of the problems going on.

Another student that needs prayer is Thibault.  He is from France and has been having difficulty reconciling God, much less Jesus.  He has been coming to our core even though he is struggling with belief.  His main reason is because he values the relationships that he has formed.  I praise God for at least bringing him to us and I ask that he will continue to work in Thibault's heart and mind.

One of the guys I'm studying the Bible with currently is Morgan.  He really seems to understand how to relate what he learns to himself in an applicable manner.  When I ask him questions he gives me tangible answers that provide insight into his life.  Plus when challenged, he takes action to change things.  He is excited to learn and live his life the best way.

This Thursday I will be giving my first sermon as an intern.  I'm developing quite a bit of anxiety, but I'm also looking forward to the opportunity to share some thoughts with the group at large.  My topic is humility and it is going along with our theme of Unchanging, which means that I am going to talk about how God in the Old testament and Jesus both exhibit humility.  Please pray that God prepares me to allow him to speak through me.

I want to thank you again for your support!  It really means a lot to me that you have given me the time to invest myself so deeply into college ministry.  Please continue to pray that God uses me for his purposes over my own.  I love you all.

Yours for the Campus,


Friday, September 30, 2011

October Update

The craziness of starting a new school year has died down considerably.  Instead of preparation, I've been filling my schedule recently with one-on-one meetings.

I've been trying to get to know the new guys in core better to see where they are in the different areas of life so I can help them grow in maturity both spiritually and mentally.  Core is what we call our small groups, because we believe them to be the core of our ministry.  Some of the guys who I have known for a little longer are currently doing a Bible study with me called Focus on Jesus.  This is the same Bible study I was referring to with Kenneth last month.  It is a ten lesson study that we have created over the years to cover the basics of following Christ so we can 1) get rid of any misconceptions of who Jesus is, 2) get rid of any misconceptions of what following Jesus means, and 3) teach them how to read and interpret the Bible for themselves instead of depending on what other people tell them.  The goal of this study is to "bring them face to face with Jesus and become as we are - radical, fired-up, crazy-in-love-with-Jesus disciples."  We try to make sure that anyone interested in going through that study has the opportunity to do so.

One of the guys in my core is named Wes.  At first he seemed pretty pretentious, but when I got to know him I could start to see beneath his exterior shell that he puts up.  It's pretty common for guys to think they need to act cool in order to make friends so I wasn't surprised.  That's the problem with our world, though.  Fortunately for Wes, there were also a few opportunities that God has given me with him to show what actual friendship is.

The first was when I talked to him one Thursday night at our large group meeting.  He mentioned that he was playing in an indoor soccer game afterward so I told him that I wanted to come and after the game he was really surprised that a small group of us actually came.  I really don't think that he had many real friends or ever really experienced friendship the way God intended us to.

Last week I organized a soccer game on Sunday afternoon because I knew that he would enjoy that.  During the game he had a seizure and collapsed on the concrete so we called an ambulance.  Another friend and I followed them to the hospital and stayed with him and his mom for a few hours to keep him company.  The next day I texted him to see how he was doing and he profusely thanked me for being there for him.  Obviously, God had everything to do with that, but it was amazing that I was used to bless him in such an awesome way.  I'm really looking forward to seeing what God does in his life this year.

In core we have been talking about who God is and what it really means to obey him.  Each week the guys will spend time with another person in the group to talk about the topic for the following week.  During core we will share our thoughts and provide scripture to back it up.  This week we started singing some a capella songs and it was pretty painful to listen to!  Keep in mind that none of us are musically gifted so it sounded kind of like a bunch of dying seagulls, but we had a lot of fun.  My main thoughts on this are that we are praising God and creating a more intimate environment as we all make ourselves more vulnerable together.  Things like that go a long way toward developing intimate relationships with each other.  It's that intimacy with other guys that is so attractive about the group, because it's not just another Bible study.  Many people today have no clue what this even feels like.  That is a sad reality.

Another group of guys I meet with regularly is the Peer Team.  These are the leaders, but not all of them facilitate a core group.  Casey (the campus pastor at Collin) and I split these guys in half and meet once every few weeks to discuss where they're each at in their studies and how their core groups are going.  As leaders, we have committed to making sure each core member gets one-on-one time with someone who is mentoring them.  I also meet one-on-one with the Peer Team guys, but my intentions are to go even deeper to teach/challenge them as best I can to have a real and meaningful relationship with God, because that is absolutely foundational for leadership.  Then I want to help them understand how to use that relationship to effectively disciple others.

A few weekends ago was our annual Fall Retreat.  We were only there for a straight 24 hours so time was of the essence.  The whole point of our fall retreats is creating or developing new friendships with people who are new.  We do a few things to foster this such as group games to learn each others' names, "walk and talks" where we split up into same-gendered pairs to share parts of our background, and general free time.  During any of those times our leaders keep in mind to purposefully facilitate these developing relationships.  Camp is quite possibly the best place for any new member to come in order to make meaningful, lasting relationships.

I'm continuing to learn more from my intern class with Ronnie as well.  We have gone over Matthew and Mark in depth over the past month.  From Matthew I have focused a lot of attention on the beatitudes (Matthew 5:3-10) because within them they summate the characteristics of Christ.  Ronnie has said they are like a skeleton that you can build other lessons into.  I have memorized them so that I can continually dwell on them and relate other lessons and ideas back to them.  Each night before going to bed I recite them to make sure they are fresh on my mind.  In Mark, we were asked to prepare an intro discussion to lead with the rest of our group in class one day.  I chose to talk about the author, Mark, why he wrote the book, and why I think his source was Peter.  There are a lot of signs within Mark when compared to the other gospels that leads me to believe that Peter, at the very least, helped Mark write his gospel.  The reason we are focusing so much on the gospels first is because they are the window into Jesus' life and he said that if we know him, we know the Father.  Also, the remainder of the Bible simply revolves around Jesus.

Let me know if you have any questions or would like to hear more about anything I mentioned above.

Thank you for all of your continued support!  Please continue to pray that God uses me.

Yours for the Campus,


Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Ministry Vision

In our big group meetings we have been having people share their vision for our ministry.  It's a time for individuals to paint a picture of what our community of believers could do and be with God's spirit within us.  In my mind it is kind of a goal setting exercise.  I read my vision a few weeks ago and I wanted to share it with you here.  Below are my notes as well so that you can get a feel for what my point is.



- Note the things that stand out to you and make them your goals for the semester/year.
- On top of that think through these things and figure out how to make them happen.
- In my mind vision setting is about getting a picture in your head of what things could look like and trying to reproduce it.


There is no doubt that God has been changing each of us throughout our lives so far, but my vision for our ministry is of the completed transformation.

This is what we would look like if we truly took up our crosses and followed him daily:

We would understand what it means to die to ourselves and how to make it happen.  Then we would do it.  God would be able to live within us in the way he intended.  He would have total control over our lives.  Just imagine never resisting him, but more so than that, imagine never even attempting to make a decision without first looking to him.  We would no longer be independent, but rather dependent on God and nothing else.

We would also become a community that passionately cares for people.  All people.  Individually and collectively, we would be the ones that people know to come to.  People would feel comfortable confiding things in us because we not only listen and keep things in confidence, but we try to help in whatever way we can and share their burden.  We would not only hold people when they cry, but cry with them because their pain becomes our own.  We would care for others habitually and love them so much that we literally forget about ourselves.

Through consistant time reading and dwelling on scripture, talking with and relating to others, and praying, we would become strong in our knowledge and understanding of the Lord and his word, but we would also be disciplined and controlled in our actions.  Submission to him in every situation would be our first priority.

We would learn more about God every day; something we did on purpose.  Instead of being obsessed with material things or people that don't last we would be obsessed with he who lasts forever.  Anything else: we would only use to glorify him.

We would be forgiving and understanding.  Our first reaction would always be love and never hate or accusation.  We would only think the best of others instead of the worst.

We would be so devoted to God's work that nothing else could distract us.  Just like a great athlete so intently wants to win that they let nothing hinder their training, we would desire pleasing him more than having fun, spending time with friends, sleeping, eating, or even breathing.  Yes, we would consider dying and pleasing him better than living and pretending to.  Through all of this we would never develop a sense of pride any more than a hammer does when used to hit a nail.  All the glory goes to the builder.

We would always look for peace rather than a fight.  When an argument arises we would try to resolve it quickly so that it doesn't linger and cause more damage than it's worth.

We would live such devoted lives to Jesus that people would be forced to love or hate us.  Not because we tell them to choose, but because our actions expose them for who they are and because they have no control over us anymore.  Since we have relinquished everything to God, others have nothing to take from us and no way to inflict pain on us.  This would create a barrier or curiosity.



I hope that this inspires you to think about the possibilities that God can bring into your life.  Don't ever limit what he can do by lack of belief.  Our God is big and he can do things beyond your imagination if you truly want him to.


- Prepare our hearts so that we can empty ourselves completely.
- Fill us with your spirit and give us a vision of what we can be when coupled with your power.
- Teach us how to allow your vision to come to life within us.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

September Update


First of all, I would like to thank you for your support (both financial and prayer).  It has been such a blessing to have you backing me up on this decision and making it possible.

The year is off to a great start!  We spent most of August preparing for the new school year.  This involved developing our new leader team; planning events geared toward meeting new students; designing, printing, and distributing advertising for our large group meetings as well as our opening week events; and praying over the campus.

School started last week at Collin and I spent most days in the cafeteria during lunch or at opening week events (where we played volleyball or basketball and provided free soft drinks) meeting and talking to new students.  It was pretty neat being able to meet that many young people (mainly fresh out of highschool).  There was such a wide variety of personalities.  One student I met, named Eric, has been paralyzed from the waist down from birth, but he has never let that hold him back and he sees it as such a positive experience in his life because it has made him stronger.  Another guy, named Joseph, was taking dual credit courses and he is only seventeen.  I met him sitting by himself in the cafeteria.  It was a little weird being so much older than the students, because they would always assume at first that I was also student there and I would have to explain why I was really there.  That just made it easier to tell them my purpose for being there.  I told them that I was a full-time campus ministry intern for FOCUS and let them know where and when we meet.  I handed out business cards that included our meeting time and place and also swapped phone numbers with them in order to get together another time.  Some of the people we have in our small groups or one-on-one studies may never come to anything else within our ministry.  Our goal isn't just to get people to go to FOCUS, but to develop meaningful, purposeful relationships and search for those willing to seek out Christ.  When good soil is found we plant.

Speaking of good soil, I recently reconnected with a friend at one of our large group meetings who I met playing Ultimate Frisbee over the summer.  He had never visited before so I made it a point to go greet him.  When I asked how he was doing, he said, "Bad."  I prodded for a reason.  He realized recently that he was living a lie by trying to claim Christianity, but never really being a Christian.  He told me that he pretty much cut out everything from his life like watching television and using Facebook in order to start reading his Bible to better understand what it means to be a Christian.  It's very exciting for me to come across someone who is earnestly seeking the truth because they already want to do it.  They already have conviction in their life that inspires them.  We are going to start a one-on-one study in the next week and I have no doubt that God will use that to change his life tremendously.  Please pray for this guy!  His name is Kenneth.

In the past few weeks, the FOCUS interns have been studying Matthew with Ronnie, the pastor of the church that supports our college ministries.  He has been helping us understand how to break down the book to see who Matthew was as a person, what his perception of Jesus was, who he was writing to and why, and what response he was trying to evoke out of his readers.  One of Ronnie's biggest points is that we need to learn how to take the complex ideas of Christianity and translate them into simpler concepts that are easier to understand for people newer to the Bible.  On top of that, I have amped up my devotional time by trying different creative methods and it has truly added incredible depth to my personal time in the word.  I cannot express to you how glad I am to be developing these skills.  It will improve my ability to teach others significantly, although I don't believe these skills are necessary for sharing the good news with anyone!  Our God is big and can do anything we could dream of and much more.

These are just a few snapshots of my past month.  I hope that in some way you are inspired through hearing what God has done through me.  If you ever have any questions or just want to comment on anything, please feel free to post on my blog or contact me in any other way.  I love hearing from you and I want to promote a healthy communication between us.

Please keep me in your prayers.  Thanks again for your support!

Yours for the Campus,