Saturday, February 1, 2014

February Update

Beginning a new semester is always intense, but I think we've finally settled into a routine now. I'm really excited about this semester coming out of Winter Camp, going into a new sermon series, and thinking about next year's potential leaders.

WINTER CAMP
I really wish you could have been there. To remind you, our topic was "Where the spirit of the Lord is, there is Freedom." The main focus of the weekend was an understanding of the Holy Spirit. I, along with many others, prayed fervently that God would be there with us and move in us. I believe that He did. Our times singing worship songs were more expressive than I've ever seen in our ministry. Several students walked up on stage sporadically between songs to share something the Lord had put on their hearts and minds. Many there were more open to God's spirit than in the past, I being one of them.

Beyond that, it was encouraging just to have the whole FOCUS community together again. I greatly enjoy intermingling the campuses and watching new friendships come out of Winter Camp. That's actually one of my favorite parts!

This is our group at camp:


SERMON SERIES
The sermon series that we just started at UNT is "Embracing Spiritual Adolescence: Developing an Adult Relationship with the Almighty." At first I thought it should be titled "Coming Out of Spiritual Adolescence." Then I realized adolescence isn't the opposite of maturity, but the process of growing into maturity. I want all of the students in our ministry engaged in that process!

In the next several weeks we will be going deeper into three important aspects of spiritual maturity:
1) Intimacy: seeking relationship
2) Self-control: surrendered obedience
3) Love: doing what's best

Last night, for example, I talked about idolatry with examples from Exodus 32 and 1 Kings 11. In these two places we see how seriously God takes idolatry. There are major consequences. For making the golden calf, most of the Israelites were killed and the remainder received a plague. God couldn't even be with them any longer on their journey as we see in Exodus 33:3. Solomon, who up until chapter 11 in 1 Kings seemed to be impervious to evil, falters. Despite all of the wisdom he had, he chose to marry women the Lord warned about and ended up serving their gods.

In Exodus 20:2-6 the Lord gave His commands in regard to idolatry. We see here that He is a jealous God. The meaning of the word here from what I understand is not that God coveted or envied His people. To covet/envy means to desire something that someone else has so much that you want to take it away from them. Jealousy is about an intolerance to losing something or someone you appreciate to someone else. It's about losing something you already have. Can you imagine the despair of our Lord when we walk away from Him? Or even when we just sneak off for a few moments?

My encouragement to the students was essentially to remove the spiritual infections from their individual lives and our community: to cast down their idols, to rebuke each other - only out of love - as Moses did to Aaron in Exodus 32. We need to take a step back and figure out what we are worshiping instead of the Lord, and then demystify those things by realizing they can't offer any security to us. Only in God can we find security. And the more we pursue Him, the less we will pursue false gods.

Read 1 Corinthians 10:1-13 when you get a chance. Paul encourages the Corinthians in light of all of this and more.

(I just realized my last post also included a mini sermon on idolatry. Perhaps God has placed this on my heart for you.)

POTENTIAL NEW LEADERS
As you may remember we invite our potential new leaders for the following year to a college ministry leadership conference in Bellingham, WA, each year in May. This week we just finalized our invitations to that conference which came out to 35 invites with an additional 6 maybes for UNT and TWU!
(UNT is the University of North Texas and TWU is the Texas Woman's University)

One last thing I need to mention: TWU FOCUS is now an official organization on campus! It's the beginning of something great that God is going to do on that campus. I say that because there are few Christian organizations there and very little social activity. One of our goals is to change the culture of the TWU campus to be more active, but even more so to be a place where God is known to change hearts and lives.

STAFF RETREAT
I told you that I would let you know how the staff retreat went and so I'm going to tag it on to the bottom here. One of our themes was how we each deal with conflict. I personally enjoyed this because it was a time of vulnerability for most of us that brought our team closer together. We also had some discussions about what our dysfunctions as a team are, the sources of influence for leaders, and various other things geared toward staff development or administration to prepare for the semester. This was a very brief summary, but I will tell you that these retreats are essential to growing our staff team together in the Lord, as a spiritual family, and in effectiveness for the Kingdom.

Please see the prayer requests on the left! Thank you, thank you, thank you for all of your support. I appreciate all of the people who make it possible for me to be ministering to students at UNT and TWU. May God bless you always.

Yours for the Campus,

Matt