Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Teaching about Christ's Return

We had 475 students show up for 4 hours of teaching past Sunday!

Pizza Theology - Ready or Not... Here He Comes!

We had a great night of teaching this past Sunday looking at what the scriptures teach about Christ's return and what it means to live in light of that. Sarah King took us through the entire story of the Bible, showing how it all anticipates an ending where God shows up to make things right again. Then I had the privilege of talking through Matthew 24 & 25, Jesus' last great sermon in Matthew's gospel and his most sustained teaching on his coming back. Miriam Freeman from our Denton team then spent an hour helping us understand how to approach and think about the book of Revelation. And, of course, we had lots of pizza and fellowship in the middle!

If you'd like to listen to it, you can find it here.

The students were eager and engaged the entire time; they took lots of notes! They also had lots of questions afterward, and we are looking forward to addressing some of them in a future episode of our podcast. I'm consistently amazed that so many students consistently attend these 4-hour lectures. It shows that they have a deep desire to understand the Bible and the implications of their faith! Please pray for us as we are already thinking through what to cover in the two Pizza Theology events next school year.

Student Testimony

Devin Rardin, Junior, Journalism, UNT
"When I was growing up, I was too afraid, timid and shy to make many friends. My parents encouraged me to join the swim team in high school, and I finally found a group of consistent friends there. That time brought a lot of confusion about my own sexuality. My attempts to figure out my own sexuality caused me to have a selfish outlook on those friendships. I had a group of friends that I was grateful for, but I still never experienced deep and true relationships. My main goal as I began college was to make new friends. During my first week at UNT, Pedro Paz befriended me and started to build a relationship with me while introducing me to the FOCUS community. My desire to find friends kept me coming back to different FOCUS events, and I began to see God work in my life. Even though I didn’t know Him at the time, God was chasing after me. I saw myself start to change as I obtained a new understanding of friendship and sexuality. I saw God use people like Matt Clark, who was shy like me, to impact hundreds of people. God taught me how to be expressive while still using my quiet nature as a tool for discipleship. I have friends that have sacrificed so much to help me through my struggles. God’s love shone through these people and I was able to see that my own desires, deriving from my sexuality, would not bring the joy I searched for. I realized that I was searching for love, but God was always with me. He offers the most intimate and greatest love."

Final Note

We are also putting together what might be our biggest group yet for SICM, certainly our biggest yet from UTD. I'll have more on that in future months. Thanks so much for your prayers and encouragement and support. It means so much to me and this ministry!

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Some Big News!

Winter Camp Updates

The UTD Students at camp Whooshing. We had an amazing group from UTD this year and our biggest overall group ever!
Me with the 4 corefas I get to mentor this year (Austin, Jesse, Casey & Luke). I have fallen in love with these gifted young ministers. 
I got engaged in front of 600 screaming students! You can probably find the video on facebook if you haven't seen it yet. Sarah and I are planning to get married this summer.
A couple of my wonderful donors came to camp this year. Eileen has been a friend of my family since I was a very little boy, and she has been a big encouragement to me as a minister. Eric Anderson also came out, but I failed to get a picture with him!
I don't think Winter Camp could have gone any better. Geoff and Jessica Mumley came down from Washington State to share with our community about what it means to be "Sent." All the talks are online, but so many were especially touched by Jessica's first talk. I highly recommend you take the time to listen to it here.
Geoff and Jessica in front of the main building at Sky Ranch.

A Winter Camp Success Story - UNT Dallas

One of our students from Richland recently transferred to UNT Dallas (a newer campus in south Dallas). After hearing the messages at camp about living as a "sent one," she started reaching out to other people in her dorm. She realized that there is not a single Christian ministry on that campus, so she found a faculty advisor and some students and signed us up for an organization fair on campus. So I guess FOCUS is on 12 campuses now! Please be in prayer with us as we pray about which staff person can reallocate some time to support this excited young lady. I love when the Lord does our strategic planning for us.

An Update on Our Friday Night Teaching Times at UTD

Last semester we gave the students a pretty extensive survey about theological beliefs. As we looked through and prayed over the results, a few key areas of confusion and uncertainty stood out. So we have designed our sermons this semester to address these. Here's what we have planned:
  • We're almost done with a 4-week series from Laurence on God's heart for Justice. We've been studying how justice in the scripture is most often about God's expectation for his people to defend the rights of vulnerable people--in the Old Testament, these are most often orphans, widows, foreigners, and the poor. We've been focusing on certain vulnerable groups in our own society and reflecting on how God would have us treat them--the mentally ill, the poor, the incarcerated, and the elderly.
  • Next, Sirak will be talking about how to think about the relationship between faith and science. At the end of the series, he'll be interviewing some Christian professors from the natural sciences about how they have navigated that cultural schism.
  • Later in the semester, Sarah will be teaching a series on the Holy Spirit, perhaps the least understood member of the Trinity.
  • And for our Pizza Theology this semester, we'll be diving into the topic of the second coming of Christ. I'll have more about that next month!
Please be praying for those preparing to teach and for the students preparing to hear, that we would listen carefully to what God wants to say to us on these topics. Thank you for your prayers and support. Lives are being changed, and hearts are being turned toward God!

Student Testimony (from SMU!)

Candice Fudzie, Southern Methodist University, Freshman
Math, Environmental Engineering, and Sociology 
"This past semester, I was a 17-year-old girl who felt very overwhelmed with all that college had to offer. I deal with depression and anxiety. Throughout high school, these disorders tore me apart and made it extremely easy to block out my friends, my family, and God. I was going down a destructive path and, frankly, it’s by the grace and love of God that I am even alive. FOCUS has given me a community where I’m allowed to be vulnerable and transparent. FOCUS has helped me emphasize my personal relationship with God; now I’m sure to let him know how I’m feeling (something I couldn’t accomplish in high school). Due to my growing relationship with God, I’ve been able to see a clear and healthy path towards dealing with my depression and anxiety where He is a part of my journey. PRAISE God! Whether it's lying on the floor listening to “Build My Life” by Housefires, writing out my negative thoughts and turning them into positive ones, or calling my mom to tell her how I’m feeling, I remember the Spirit is with me to give me strength."

Developing Our Pastoral Team

We are back in August and ramping up for the school year! We have an amazing pastoral staff, and an outstanding group of student leaders. At...