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,