Overwhelmed

Some great thoughts from a college student that we had the pleasure of hosting for a week here at Impact South Bend.

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I.

I am overwhelmed.

He.

He overwhelms me.

But I am loved, because He loves me.

March 4th-11th I got to spend time in South Bend, IN with Impact Campus Ministry. Before I left I thought maybe I could work with urban ministry and utilize my intercultural degree there, but God had something else to say to me. I also have a minor in Spiritual Formation and God wants me to use that now. It was overwhelming and spiritually it drained me from the beginning of the week and as the week progressed I became more and more overwhelmed by God. Then I saw what campus ministry was about and I was on my knees.

What was I to do? Well, I cried. A lot. But not as much as I prayed.

I.

I am overwhelmed.

He.

He overwhelms me.

But I am loved, because He loves me.

When I…

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deliberate discipleship

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There are a ton of words and phrases that we use to describe our view and vision of what a disciple is and what discipleship means.  Even among our own ministry we have used a plethora of different words to demonstrate how we talk about being a disciple or discipling others.  Paul says in Corinthians 11:1 “Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ.”   

Being a disciple is someone who has submitted to Jesus and seeks to become like Him.  Discipleship is imitating a mentor (disciple) who imitates Jesus.

If we were to take a look at discipleship at the time of Jesus we would see his talmidim (disciples) following him everywhere, imitating his every word and his every action. The desire of a talmid (disciple) was to know what the rabbi knew, in order to do what the rabbi did, in order to be just like their rabbi in his walk with God.  Perhaps this gives new meaning to the words of Jesus in Matthew 28:18-20 And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

Jesus says to his talmidim, “go do the same things that we have been doing the last three years.  Just as I taught you, as we have lived life along side of each other, go teach others.  Walk along side of them, live life with them, continue to imitate me so that in imitating you, they will be imitating me.”

Submit to Jesus and become like him and we can do this by imitating a mentor (disciple) who imitates Jesus.

New Hope Missions Conference

This is an excellent post from one of our Impact Campus Ministries/Washington State University Alum.

Come & See

I recently spoke at New Hope Christian Church in Everett, WA. This was my first public speaking engagement! This opportunity blessed me, maybe more so than those in attendance, because it fulfilled my dream to be able to speak and teach about my story and God’s Word. Praise God for such an opportunity and many more to come!

New Hope Christian Church was hosting their annual Mission​s Conference with the theme of “Loving the Least of These.” They contacted BridgeTown Inc. ​and invited us to speak as one of the three highlighted mission organizations.​ My boss knows how much I want to gain speaking experience so he gave me the commission; h​ow incredible!

​I was asked to speak about our organization and our mission to love people, because people matter. In my one year with BridgeTown Inc., I have experienced so many amazing things that I found it difficult to hone in on what to share in the…

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Who Are You?

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I’ve heard it said from my friend and coworker, Marty Solomon, “we are human beings, no human doings.”  The very idea of this comes from the first chapter of Genesis ”

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So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” And God said, “Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit. You shall have them for food. And to every beast of the earth and to every bird of the heavens and to everything that creeps on the earth, everything that has the breath of life, I have given every green plant for food.” And it was so. And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good.”

Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and wall the host of them. And on the seventh day God finished his work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all his work that he had done. So God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it God rested from all his work that he had done in creation.”

Not only were we created in the image of God himself, but before Adam had a chance to do anything or produce anything, God says it was very good.  In our day, good is just kind of meh, it’s not great, just okay.  In the text good is great but very good is greater than great!  And it is this way not based on anything else other than who we are and whose we are.  It’s not about what we do, it never has been.

After being in Egypt for 400 years this was the first message Moses delivered to Israel.  They are a rescued nation of slaves who have been making bricks for 400 years  They have been told that their entire value and worth is wrapped up in what they are able to produce.  This God comes and the first story He tells them is a story is an invitation to take a break — a Sabbath — and rest.

He insists that creation — themselves in particular — is good.
He invites them to stop working and trust that they are loved, valued and accepted just because of who they ARE — not for what they DO. God invites the ancient Israelites to see the world through a new set of lenses.  He invites them to believe that He sees them as GOOD — made in the image of the Creator.  He tells them to quit trying to find their value in what they are able to do and produce.  But instead, they should stop working and REST.

He tells them, over and over again, that the story is good.
And He invites them to trust the story. (Borrowed from Marty’s Blog)

A message we need to hear over and over again, it’s not about what we do it’s about who we are.  Made in God’s image, called to a weekly rest from normal daily activity to remember this message.  Our jobs, our college or high school classes do not give us our identity.  Our identity is found in the image of God, not because of what we do but because we are created.  We rest as a way to remember and reflect on God’s love for us, that it is dependent on nothing, simply because we exist by his hand. Is your identity found in what you do or who you are?

Growing Season, Corn, & Spiritual Growth

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It’s growing season here in Northern Indiana.  As I look around and see area farmers out in their fields, several different thoughts have come to mind.  In the fall, after the crops are in and in early spring, there is a lot of prep work to get a field ready.  The dead remains of last years crop is tilled under along with any weeds that have started to grow.  In our own garden, the ground has been tilled, fruit trees have been sprayed for bugs and fungus, and some light pruning was done to remove any unhealthy sucker branches.

No matter how you look at it, before planting and growing can begin, the dead and unhealthy things have to be dealt with or removed.

John 15:1-2

“I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. 2 He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful.

Are there things in our life that needs to be pruned? Old wounds, sin, anything that needs to be “tilled under” in order to become healthy and fruitful? Things that need to be released and let go of?

Before planting begins it is not uncommon to see farmers add nutrients to the soil.  Sometimes lime is spread on a field to control the ph and neutralize the acidity.  Often manure or chemical fertilizer is added to enrich the soil and replace nutrients that may have been depleted by the previous crop.  Too much fertilizer can have a negative effect.  In addition to the soil preparation, farmers decide what crops to plant.  Most will rotate their crops.  Corn this year, soy beans next year as a way to slow down the nutrient depletion.  It takes the right amount of seed to produce healthy but not overcrowded crops.  If you plant to much, too close together, or don’t rotate the crops from year to year, harvest yields will diminish.  You have to know when enough is really enough.

Genesis 1:26-27; 31 Genesis 2:1-3

“Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.”

    27So God created man in his own image,

        in the image of God he created him;

        male and female he created them.”

Genesis 1:31

“And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day.”

Genesis 2:1-3

“Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them. 2And on the seventh day God finished his work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all his work that he had done. 3So God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it God rested from all his work that he had done in creation.”

Just like an artist who knows when to lay the brush down and stop painting his masterpiece, God knew when to stop creating.  He is inviting us to stop, to trust that we are made in his image, with his likeness within us.  It’s not about what we do but who we are and whose we are.  God looked at Adam and Eve, and calls them very good.  Before they had done or produced anything, it was tov meod! Very good!  It’s not about how much we do or produce.

Winding down the spring semester and heading into summer, we may be tempted to over schedule ourselves with supporters/support raising, summer meetings with students, preparation for fall, family plans, trips, etc.

Do I make myself too busy?  Am I taking time to replenish the depleted soil? What things do I need to remove from my schedule and say no to?  Do I know when enough is enough?

Once the seeds are planted and have begun to grow cultivation is usually needed or weed control chemicals added to keep the weeds from choking out the crops.  The right combination of rain, sun, and heat are needed for healthy plants and a good harvest.

John 15:3-8

You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. 4 Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.

5 “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. 6 If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. 7 If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. 8 This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.

We have to be purposeful in cultivating our connection to the Father through Christ.  This is the nourishment of our soul and can’t be neglected or the demands of campus ministry and support raising will choke us out like weeds will do to a garden.

Is there anything I have been neglecting in my personal pursuit of Christ?  Are there any disciplines I can incorporate that I may not have tried or implemented in my life?  How can I refuel in preparation for the return of students in the fall? Reflect upon this for a few minutes and type in your thoughts, prayers, and Scriptures in the comments section.

Why Give? #GivingTuesday

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Why give? Today we have chosen to give back to campus ministry.  The reason we give is because we want to be an encouragement to our friends and co-workers in Impact.  Obviously we love campus ministry because that’s what we do but we also want to be a support to others who have our same passion for the colleges and universities in our country.  That is why we chose to participate in #GivingTuesday.  Wether it’s your church, another non-profit organization I would encourage you to join us in giving today.  To donate to our #GivingTuesday campaign, follow this this link.

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Welcome Back to Campus

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We had an awesome start to the year handing out 600 Impact bags with food, laundry soap, water, and Impact group meeting times.  The thing that was most interesting was those that seemed surprised that a “Christian” group was handing out bags of stuff with no expectation of a sign up list or any strings attached.  We simply wanted to welcome students back to Indiana University of South Bend and let them know that someone cares.  That’s it, Jesus loves them and so do we.  Do we want them to come to our bible studies?  Sure!  But the main goal was for them to feel loved and wanted. The more they see the love of Jesus, hopefully the more open they will be to getting involved with a campus ministry group!

Community is a big key in campus ministry.  One of the biggest issues that college students face is the need to find a place to belong.  It may be a club, sports team, or a particular group of new friends and at a secular college it can mean doing things they wouldn’t normally do. Many students are willing to sacrifice the quality of their community in order to fit in and as a campus ministry, we want to be that place. Our goal with the bag hand out was simple:

“Welcome to campus, we are glad you are here!”

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Become a People of the Text

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Encouraging and discipling our students to be a people of the Biblical text has become my number one passion in campus ministry.  So many times when we read the Bible we gloss over things that don’t make sense or that we don’t understand.  Other times we try to logic it out to fit into our westernized way of thinking.  Our challenge with students is to help them understand that the text was written to make us ask questions, to dig deeper in order to gain greater insight and understanding.  I believe this is essential to discipleship, especially in the campus culture. 

Let’s paint a quick picture of my understanding of a bit of Jewish culture.  You are 5 years old and ready to head off to school. From ages 5-10 you will learn different things… different subjects if we want to refer to it that way… but… the main objective is to memorize the five books of the Torah.  

Remember, in the time of Jesus they didn’t have printing presses, so it’s not like they could just pull out the Torah and just start memorizing it.  

At age 10, the best of the best would move on in their schooling and the rest would begin apprenticing in the family business.  The ones that went on, from age 10-13 would work to memorize the rest of the Tanakh or essentially the rest of the Old Testament.  Only the best of the best of the best would move on to disciple under a rabbi.

Scripture was such an important part of life that those who trained under a rabbi could finish a sentence of the Torah or Tanakh that the rabbi would begin to quote!  

I’m not saying that we have to memorize the whole Bible in order to be good disciples of Jesus.  But we do need to be people of the text!  Not just reading it but digging deeper to understand things that challenge our thinking.  Ask questions of the text, who was it originally written to? What was going on in their lives when it was received? Who wrote it?  What was the context? What’s the main point of the passage or story? How does it apply to me now?  When we embrace Scripture as a narrative of God’s love and not just a rule book then we begin to see things with a deeper understanding.  It’s like a treasure chest within a treasure chest and we have two sets of keys.  One that unlocks the outer treasure chest and as we grow in our understanding, as we grow in our awe, respect, and humility before God, our knowledge and wisdom begins to grow and we learn to unlock the inner treasure chest.

Live life in a way that is saturated with the text, evident in every aspect of daily life.  Be people of the text, don’t just read it, live it!

Am I Missing Something?

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Just this morning my wife came across a post about protestors at a couple of Switchfoot concerts. Honestly I was a bit surprised so I had to do a little bit of internet research. Here is a blogpost that I found “Land of Broken Hearts” if you want the full story. What saddens me is the picture this group paints, claiming to represent God. This isn’t the first time people, possibly with good intentions (I hope), have used God’s wrath to try and deter people from a path they think leads to Hell. I struggle with this and it makes me sad because the God they are proclaiming and the one I read about in the Bible aren’t necessarily the same.

We get so wrapped up in the moment’s of the Old Testament where God had to intervene and take action against His creation that we forget how much he loves. Why then do we paint God as a wrathful and vengeful God?

Take a look back at the story of creation. It’s about love and creating good things, creating man in His own image, and calling it very good! Just because sin entered the world doesn’t mean His creation isn’t still very good. It makes me sad to see God painted this way. A God who just sits there waiting to inflict pain and discipline because we have broken some rule some where or haven’t lived up to His expectations. That just simply isn’t who our God is.

Yes, if we are going to call ourselves disciples or followers of Jesus then we seek to adhere to and live by God’s teachings.

The bottom line…we are created and loved by God, made in His image and he called it very good! This is simply because of who we are, not what we do! Genesis 1:31 God saw all that he had made, and it was very good. And there was evening, and there was morning—the sixth day.

We are human beings, not human doings. —Marty Solomon

I think this is what we see college students struggle with. If all we ever teach is that God will be angry if we don’t tow the line and measure up then why on earth would anybody want to be a follower of Jesus? I’m not saying we need to water down the Bible, I simply don’t believe we are painting the whole picture. Let me be clear, Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life. No one goes to the Father except through Him. But it doesn’t make any sense if the Old Testament God is angry and wrathful then suddenly He loves us enough to send Jesus to die for us, then we paint Him to be angry and wrathful again. It’s no wonder 80% of today’s college students have either left the church or never have connected with a church body to begin with. Nobody wants to be a part of anything where the expectations are so great that they cannot possibly be lived up to. But that doesn’t seem to fit the God that I know.

We need to be careful of the message we present. There will be a day when Jesus returns and brings judgement. But we need to show the love of God, the love of Jesus to all. It’s never going to be about what we do or don’t do or about what we produce. If we are going to be genuine disciples of Jesus then the natural outcome will produce a desire to pursue God through prayer and Scripture, learning all we can of Jesus and how he lived, what he taught. That will organically spill over into modeling the life of a disciple to the point we begin to teach and disciple those around us.

When following Jesus becomes a prescription of do’s and don’t’s, we lose the beauty of God’s teachings from Genesis to Revelation. It becomes head knowledge, something we are supposed to do as a “good” Christian but it doesn’t penetrate the heart.