Wednesday, February 1, 2012

February Update

A lot of good things have been happening!

For one, we have had a lot of new visitors at our events.  I met a new guy named David and stuck with him throughout our Thursday night meeting.  Afterward when everyone went to hang out at the Allen house (one of our ministry houses), I invited him, but he said he had a pretty stressful day and didn't want to be around a bunch of people.  I asked him if he wanted to go get some dinner one-on-one instead and just talk, so that is exactly what we did.  It's really neat getting to follow through with people like that instead of just meeting them and then walking away.  I'm convinced that's the main reason why we have so many people who feel blessed by our ministry and decide to stick around.  I can't even count the number of times I've been in a church and felt uncomfortable because I didn't know anyone.  A quick hello at the door is nice, but it only goes so far.  People crave relationship.

Recently I was talking to a friend of mine, named Greg, who I studied the Bible with last school year before the internship.  He actually backed out halfway through the 10 week study because he had a lot of other things going on in his life taking up his time and I think he struggled with being challenged.  He told me last week that he wanted to continue the study and I found out that he had been attending one of the other cores this past year.  I was thrilled to hear that because he really has a great heart and I know the Lord can use him to impact people's lives.  Pray for him and his pride!

My Focus on Jesus study with Kenneth is pressing on slowly but surely.  This week I am bringing another student into that study as well.  Morgan just finished going through FOJ with me a couple of weeks ago and one of the most important parts of being a disciple is making more disciples.  Therefore I am going to help him transition into a teaching role for that.  My plan for that will be to meet with Morgan weekly outside of our meeting with Kenneth, go over how to teach it, and discuss any questions he has.  First he will just sit in to observe while adding any extra thoughts or questions, and later he will be doing the teaching and I'll be observing.  I am really excited about that!  I know he is going to do a great job, but keep that in your prayers as well.

Austin, my co-small group leader, and I are starting to think of one word goals for each of our guys in core.  The purpose is to be more strategic in mentoring them through the remainder of the year.  If we narrow things down to one aspect that we think they could grow in, it will be more attainable.  For some it is getting deeper in their relationships to other guys while for others it is preparing to transfer to a four year university and keep their trust in God strong.  I may post those up next month so that you can pray over them.  Please pray now that Austin and I will be guided in that process.

In our intern class we have been talking about what salvation by faith means.  It's an idea that Paul talks about pretty heavily in Romans.  I wanted to include some of my thoughts that I had written down in the hopes that it may inspire you to think some.  Try not to analyze it too much.  I wrote it like a journal entry so it's just my pure thoughts on paper...or a screen.

What is salvation by faith exactly?  When I really want to understand something I start with breaking down the words and asking what does each mean individually and how do they affect the whole?

In my mind faith = trust.  It is action driven by belief.  Trust is proven when you believe someone based on no evidence.  Faith is exactly that.  I think this is why people often call it blind faith.  In a sense it is blind, but then again we don't usually trust people without reason.  Someone trustworthy typically gives countless examples of fulfilling a promise.  It's not so much that they did one thing that caused you to put your faith in them, but rather the way they live their life indicates that they will come through for you.  So instead of having empirical evidence that they will do what they say in this specific situation you have evidence of this person coming through over and over again in other situations.  When you think about it that way you realize there is no way to prove that someone will do something they say they will.  All faith (and trust) is essentially blind in that sense.  I only mention faith in a promise for the future because anything else would be outside the scope of this discussion; salvation by faith.  If we are saved by our faith, which is from first to last, then it seems salvation would come at the end meaning salvation will be obtained in the future.  That being said I think God has given us plenty of reasons to trust him.  I would be crazy not to put my faith in him and his son.

According to the Vine's expository dictionary Paul uses the Greek word "soteria" in Romans 1:16 to denote "deliverance, preservation, salvation" which is used in English as the word "salvation" to mean of the spiritual and eternal deliverance granted immediately by God to those who accept His conditions of repentence and faith in the Lord Jesus, in whom alone it is to be obtained and for this purpose the gospel is the saving instrument.

The gospel is the good news that Jesus, being God's son, gave his life in place of ours since the wages of sin is death.  Jesus says that God gave his only son so that whoever believes in him will have eternal life.  Paul writes in Romans 3:25 that God presented Jesus as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in his blood.  I think back to the Passover to help me understand this last statement better.  When the Isrealites put the lambs blood on their doorposts they believed this act would save them.  In a similar way it is our belief that Christ's blood will save us that actually saves us.  People have a hard time believing that a good God would refuse to save a good person just because they didn't believe in him.  I bet there were some "good" people who didn't put the blood on their doorposts and their firstborn son was killed that night.  God lays out his stipulations pretty clearly and the root issue isn't that God is mean, but that we have disobedient hearts.  We think we know how to get around it.  Other times our insecurities take over and we are afraid that maybe God isn't going to make things work out the best way.  Both of these are the opposite of faith.

I often remember the analogy that Brandon presented to me of two men meeting in a restaurant.  One says they have a bomb on them and it's about to explode.  So the other runs out of the building.  The question is, "Was it that second man's belief that saved him or the action to run out?"  The answer is both.  Well this analogy is generally used to show that faith and works go hand in hand, but it also points out that faith is the foundational element to salvation.  The man wouldn't have run out of the building if he didn't believe what the other man said.  There are a lot of ways that you could look at that story, but ultimately the man simply proved his faith in the other man by running out of the building.  Had he not run out there would have been no faith.  I can just imagine Jesus standing there after the building explodes saying to the man who ran out, "Your faith has saved you; go in peace."

Last, but not least, we had our Winter camp just a few weeks ago!  Excitement always surrounds this event and most of the time people don't even know why.  One of my friends from when I was a student at UTD used to start counting down the days to the next Winter camp the day after we got back from the most recent one.  I started to consider this year why it is that we all enjoy camp so much.  I think the main thing goes back to how purposeful we are as leaders to look for and be aware of people, especially new people.  It's just like the follow through I was talking about at our large group meetings.  We gear all of our activities around building new relationships while strengthening current relationships.  Since we had all four campuses there and around 270 people total it wasn't hard to find someone you didn't know.  Some of the different ways we facilitated this relationship building is by instilling in our student leaders an importance of making their time purposeful with their small group members.  Often the biggest thing is just thinking of some goals for them.  We also had the well known "walk and talks" where students get in gender specific pairs to walk around the camp and learn about each other.  This is a favorite among most people.  During our evangelism session we had the students pair up with someone they didn't know at all to do role playing exercises.  This was to prepare them for the new semester to meet new people in their classes, but it also provided the opportunity to make yet another new connection.   There was a lot of free time during camp to play sports, board games, read/write/reflect, or just visit with other people.  It may sound odd that I think this is probably the most important part, but it is where students connect with others.  When you consider the strategic way we spend time with each other I think it's easy to see how free time can become a powerful tool in building God's community.

The Collin Group


Let me know if you have any thoughts, reflections, questions, concerns, requests, etc.  Thank you for ALL of your support!  God has truly blessed me with you.

Yours for the Campus,