Saturday, April 11, 2015

The Tail End of 2014-2015

March was a busy month, but a better one. This time of year is always packed full of exciting stuff. Students are making commitments to the Lord and deciding to get serious about secret sins and issues. Student leaders are having meaningful conversations and preparing the final challenges and words of encouragement that they want to deliver as they disband their cores and send people off to summer or to graduation and beyond. Students see the end of the year approaching, and that sense of urgency creates all sorts of opportunities for meaningful ministry.

I've reflected over the years how these arbitrary finish lines can help people change and grow so much. Please take a moment to pray that every one of our students who is contemplating a change for the better this April wouldn't let the opportunity pass them by.

I had the opportunity to attend Alphonse's baptism a couple weeks back. He didn't grow up knowing about Jesus, and UTD was the perfect place to get to know him! Some of the guys were reaching out to him and inviting him to lots of stuff and trying to get him to study the Bible with them. At the same time, he noticed that one of the girls living in his hall, Tiffany, always wore a cross necklace. When he asked her about it one day, she didn't say "It's a Christian thing" or "My mom gave it to me." Instead, she took the opportunity to share with him the story of Jesus and His sacrifice and what it meant to her. Alphonse shared about how pivotal that moment was at his baptism, and I got to meet Tiffany because she came to celebrate with us! God is good, and he is working through His people all the time.

I thought you'd find this brief video of that baptism encouraging. The guy baptizing him, Grant, is one of the seniors I'm mentoring this year, and he will be a part of our team to pioneer FOCUS at UT Arlington this fall as he moves over there to work as an engineer for Bell Helicopter.

We also had an amazing Spring Showcase fundraiser for SICM this month. We raised nearly $9000 to train new leaders this summer, and had a great time with some incredible performances. One of the students who went to SICM last year took a couple minutes to explain the value of that trip. If you weren't at the Showcase, I encourage you to listen to him explain it and catch (or re-catch) the vision for the Student Institute of Campus Ministry.
Lastly, we are having our spring Pizza Theology for the students tomorrow. The title is "The End of the World as We Know It: Heaven, Hell, and Everything In Between." I have the task of teaching on the Biblical doctrine of hell, and preparing has been very challenging. But I'm excited to share what I've learned. I've been pondering the idea that in the scripture, doctrines are for something; they serve specific purposes. And just like using a tool for the wrong job risks damage to both the tool and whatever you are working on, I think using doctrines for different purposes than the scripture does risks both theological and pastoral damage.

In the scripture, the doctrine of eschatology (the study of last things) is used both to warn and to encourage. It is a warning to those who benefit from injustice. It is an encouragement to hold on for those who suffer because they follow God. And yet I wonder if this is what we always use this doctrine for. I think we are tempted to use it to figure out exactly when these things are going to happen and exactly what they will be like, perhaps to be ready but perhaps to simply satisfy our own curiosity. I think we are tempted to use the doctrine of hell to guilt people into mission work. Maybe we can safely extrapolate these ideas from what the scripture says, but I think we get into dangerous territory when we use these teachings and ideas in different ways than the biblical authors who originally penned them for us. I encourage you in your own study of scripture to reflect on the question of what teachings are for, and how we might best use them to God's glory.

I'm so thankful for each of you who pray for me, for students, and for all who live and work and learn on these campuses. I'm thankful for those of you who faithfully support this mission financially. Thank you for partnering with me!

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