Getting Personal

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Walking-in-the-Dust-Final-Front-Cover-bigCampus ministry is a unique experience that often takes different forms and shapes because of the vast differences in the campus cultures even in the same city.  One group can be made up of students who grew up in the church with a ton of preconceived ideas about God while others are a fresh slate ready to take it all in for the first time.  This week in my personal study I came across an excerpt in the book “Walking In the Dust of Rabbi Jesus” by Lois Tverberg, talking about Job and the dialog that takes place between him and his three friends Bildad, Eliphaz, and Zophar as to why Job is suffering.  There assumption is that Job must be suffering because of his own sins.  Tverberg has this insight as to why the three friends didn’t understand Job’s suffering or Job’s frustration at God.

“Job’s friends were making the mistake that Western Christians do today when we don’t have a Hebraic understanding of the “knowledge of God”—da’at Elohim. A Westerner opens the Bible and wants to prove God’s existence and construct a theology to explain God’s nature. We would call that “knowledge of God.” But in Hebrew, to “know” someone was to be familiar with him through experience and relationship, as a wife knows her husband.”

“While Job’s friends had a theoretical knowledge of God, Job knew God in this latter, Hebraic sense of the word. Christian philosopher Peter Kreeft writes:
Job sticks to God, retains intimacy, passion and care, while the three friends are satisfied with correctness of words, “dead orthodoxy.” Job’s words do not accurately reflect God as Job’s friends’ do, but Job himself is in true relationship with God, as the three friends are not: a relationship of heart and soul, life-or-death passion…. Job stays married to God and throws dishes at him; the three friends have a polite non-marriage, with separate bedrooms and separate vacations.”

I immediately thought this to be the biggest task we have with students. To lead them in such away that they can encounter God on such a personal level that there is no doubt about the intimate relationship with God.  This is what we so often miss in reading Scripture… we miss or don’t really understand the personal interaction people of the Bible had with God.  As a result it becomes things we know about God but the key to authentic discipleship is to understand the true knowledge of God comes through the experience of the relationship with God.

Book Review God’s at War

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ImageIn gods at war, Kyle Idleman, bestselling author of not a fan, helps the us to recognize there are false gods at war within each of us, and they battle for the place of glory and control in our lives. What keeps us from truly following Jesus is that our hearts are pursuing something or someone else. While these pursuits may not be the ‘graven images’ of old, they are in fact modern day idols. Behind the sin you’re struggling with, the discouragement you’re dealing with, the lack of purpose you’re living with is a false god that is winning the war for your heart. According to Idleman, idolatry isn’t an issue—it is the issue. By asking thought out questions, Idleman reveals which false gods each of us are allowing on the throne of our lives. What do you sacrifice for? What makes you mad? What do you worry about? Whose applause do you long for? We’re all wired for worship, but we often end up valuing and honoring the idols of money, sex, food, romance, success and many others that keep us from the intimate relationship with God that we desire. Using true, powerful and honest testimonies of those who have struggled in each area, gods at war illustrates a clear path away from the heartache of our 21st century idolatry back to the heart of God — enabling us to truly be completely committed followers of Jesus.  I would give this 3.5 stars, the concept is excellent and is a pretty easy read.Image

5 Things About a Personal Retreat Day

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Personal Retreat Days or PRD’s are one of the required components to my work as a campus minister with Impact Campus Ministries.  In all honesty, it was one of the things that made the Impact organization attractive and different than any other ministry position I have had to this point.  These occur once a month and are my way of recharging spiritually, and sometimes physically. There aren’t simply enough words to explain why I can’t be effective as a minister without taking PRD’s.  It doesn’t matter how busy the schedule is, it simply had to be included or at some point, I simply won’t be functioning well mentally, physically and spiritually.  Here are 5 things about my personal retreat day.

1. Turn the phone to silent or simply don’t take it.  For me, the biggest distraction is email so it is better if I don’t take the phone or put it in a spot where I am not checking email.

2.  Find your spot.  I like to do one of two things usually, either hang out at a coffee shop and or go hiking if the weather is decent.  My third option is at home only if I can find a place where I won’t be distracted.  It becomes to easy to slip into work mode if I am not careful.

3.  Necessary items for me are my iPad (which contains my Bible and the current books I am reading), my iPod for music,  downloaded podcasts of “Pray As You Go” to help set my focus for the day, and usually my journal to record thoughts and conversations that occur between God and I.

4.  Avoid distractions.  For me that usually involves work related things like email but also I have to be in a place where I can be an introvert, put in my headphones and focus.

5.  Relax and enjoy the ride.  It is okay to recharge and renew, it is not a lazy, slacking off day.  It has purpose and great value as long as we are willing to sit back and listen to God.  Some of my best insights into Scripture have come on my PRD’s because I am simply engulfing myself in God’s presence.

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Doing Life Together

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I borrowed this from a blog post titled Retreats in “real life”

Simply put, we need to seek each other out and do life together, reaching past the afterglow of the speaker’s message at retreat. As leaders, we need to facilitate that connection by loving our students intentionally, encouraging developing friendships.

I like this quote because it boils down the need of community to a simple statement, doing life together. This shows itself to be an elemental need wether you are a person of faith or not. Speaking as an introvert by nature, even we need other introverts and the occasional extrovert (notice this is not plural, if you are a true introvert, one extrovert goes a long way) to do life with.

Sometimes I think the problem is the emphasis we place on the idea of the personal relationship with Jesus. We get so caught up on the singular aspect of “Jesus and I” that we forget about the need to be in community with each other. Community is how we flourish and grow both physically, mentally, and spiritually together.

Throughout the bible, especially in the Jewish culture, community was a given. Even to the extent of biblical study. The Hebrew word haverim means “students who gather together to grapple with the text”. Students are literally together debating and challenging the meaning behind biblical text in order to develop a deeper understanding and interpretation.

With college students, the need for stronger relationships exist. That’s why off campus, spiritual retreats can be so effective, quality time with each other away from cell phones, computers, homework, and social media. Our challenge comes in maintaining the bonds that develop when we return to class and the busy-ness of life. Whether your in your church or a college ministry, find those people you can trust and do life together! Make it a priority to set aside the time necessary to be with other believers.

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An Arrow Pointing Toward Heaven

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Rich Mullins was one of my favorite song writers.  Rich had a way of telling a story and painting a picture of the everyday struggle to be a real talmid (disciple) of Jesus in a modern world.  His words and music resonate with me still because his joy, compassion, brokenness and unblinking honesty all served his greatest desire, pointing people toward God.

In our campus ministry work, our greatest desire is to be talmidim (disciples) of Jesus. This weeks discussion at Indiana U. of South Bend centered on the last segments of Matthew chapter 5.

Matthew 5:38-48 (ESV)
38 “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’
39 But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also.
40 And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well.
41 And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles.
42 Give to the one who begs from you, and do not refuse the one who would borrow from you.
43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’
44 But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,
45 so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.
46 For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same?
47 And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same?
48 You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

Wether it’s on campus, at a job, in the public schools or some other corner of the society we live in, as Christians we often find ourselves tempted to be defensive when we are challenged or attacked because we hold the Bible to be truth.  How many times do we see in some aspect of social media vicious words spoken… on both sides?  These passages in Matthew are the teachings Jesus used to train his talmidim.  His words are true for us as well.  People outside of Christ do not hold the Bible to be truth.  Using it to hit them over the heads does nothing because we are not on equal footing.  As talmidim, we are called to be different… uncommon… why? because our God is different!  Those that hate us because of Jesus may still hate us, but if we act any other way than the way Jesus teaches in the sermon on the mount, we lose our credibility and our witness and we sure aren’t pointing people towards Jesus.  Those we are retaliating against will never see anything in Christians other than hate if we act the same as everyone else.  These words of Jesus apply to all of us who aspire to be one of His talmidim.  Anyone remember the trendy Christian thing “WWJD” (what would Jesus do)?  We know what he would do and have us do… love those who oppose and hate us, pray for them, forgive them. It’s not a level playing field, how can we expect them to act any different if they don’t believe?  Being a talmid of Jesus I know the truth and I need to have His words be reflected in my daily life.  If I don’t, how can I be an arrow pointing to heaven?

Discipleship on Campus

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Here we are finishing the second week of September and already running strong on the campuses in South Bend, Indiana.  With discipleship being such a strong part of our ministry at Impact, I found myself all summer being drawn to the Jesus’ words throughout the gospels, specifically beginning with the sermon on the mount.  I’m drawn to His words because they are the only recorded teaching moments with His talmidim (tahl-me-DEEM, Hebrew word meaning disciples or students of a rabbi).

As I pursue being a talmid (disciple) of Jesus I see the need to rethink what it meant to follow a rabbi.  In our western thought we look at imitation, mimicking, and plagiarism as negative things but as I try to understand more of Jesus and his first followers, I realize that imitation was exactly what a talmid would try to do.  They wanted to be like their rabbi in every aspect, trying to take on all of the his characteristics, the way he thought, the way he taught.  They would be with him constantly because they didn’t want to miss one thing the teacher would say.  The 12 disciples would have done the same with Jesus.

This is why I marvel at the words of Jesus in Matthew 5:

Matthew 5:2-12 (ESV)
2 And he opened his mouth and taught them, saying:
3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
4 “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.
5 “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.
6 “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.
7 “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.
8 “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.
9 “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.
10 “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
11 “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account.
12 Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

Here was the promised Messiah, who many thought would come and save them from Roman oppression and this is His message.  Not one of vengeance but one of mercy, forgiveness, peace, humility, even in the face of persecution.  This is the message he chooses to give to his talmidim.  Why? because God is a god of love and forgiveness.  Because He is different, we are to be different.  The teachings Jesus spoke to His 12 talmidim is the same message for those of us who choose to follow Him now.  This is the same message we need to model and instill in the lives of college students.  Pursue, model, and teach Christ on the college campus.  I can’t think of a better place to start with young students than the very things Jesus taught to His own talmidim!

12 Things I’ve Learned While Support Raising

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Here are 12 things we learned on our support raising journey with Impact Campus Ministries.

-1 Let God have control. This is a must, if he has called you to a ministry that requires you to raise your own support, he will get you there.  It still took our effort and hard work but we had to be attentive to the Holy Spirit and allow God room to work.

-2 Learn to tell your story.  You can have all the facts and figures you want to have about why this is an awesome ministry to support but if you don’t make it personal, people won’t connect.  Tell your story and your passion for ministry.

-3 Get over yourself.  This was hard for us because we just simply were raised where you didn’t ask people for things.  As if that wasn’t difficult enough to get over, I am an introvert and would rather have a had tooth pulled than talk to people on the phone in the beginning.  Get over it, the more you talk to people the easier it gets.

-4 Learn humility. Not because we were asking people for support but because we are relying on God to provide and had to recognize the He is God, not us.

-5 Don’t look for an easy button.  We all want to get there quick and the temptation is to look for the fastest means to the financial goal, the big supporters.  The bottom line is that we are looking for partners in ministry, people who will support us and pray for us and who we lift up in constant prayer.  The broader the base, the broader the prayer support.  By the way, just so you know… there is no easy button!

-6 Listen to God and let the Holy Spirit lead.  I can’t say this enough, there were so many times that I held off sending a letter because I felt the time wasn’t right or I stopped to make a phone call or send an email because I just had the sense that it was the right thing to do.  We had several instances where our ministry information arrived at a time where a friend was looking for another ministry to support.

-7 Be open and proud about support raising.  God called us to this ministry and we learned to be proud and passionate about it, even the support raising.  It is not a shameful thing to support raise and certainly not a taboo subject.  We have supporters who have decided to partner with us simply because we started a conversation.  One of our faithful supporters noticed what we were doing because I asked him to like our Impact Facebook page in a online contest that the staff was having.

-8 Pray… a lot!  We couldn’t do this enough.  Support raising has been the most challenging thing we have ever done, spiritually, physically and emotionally.  Our prayer life has increased at least 10 fold because we need the constant connection with our Father.

-9 You have to ask!  There is no other way, you have to be able to ask the question, “Will you support our ministry?”   Say it over and over to a friend, a spouse, or an accountability partner but there is no way around it.  When we became bold enough to make the ask, we started getting better results.

-10 Find some accountability.  I started off with an accountability partner then transitioned to an everyday accountability call.  I can’t tell you how valuable it is to have someone who will bust your chops for not doing what you said you were going to do.  Were it not for the accountability, I would have been much less productive.

-11 It’s not who you think… “They said no, they must not like us…” It simply isn’t about you or who you think will partner with the ministry. It is about who God has called to do His work in this way. Allow people a chance to say yes or no and trust that He will provide for what He has called you to. You will simply be astounded at what God will do when you give up control.

-12 Enjoy the journey!  We have learned so much and grown so much in the last two years raising support.  The simple fact is you can learn to enjoy it!  Talking about our ministry and what God is doing through it always energizes us.

 

It’s Official!

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The Neyharts

The Neyharts

Okay, it’s official, I am now a full time campus minister with Impact Campus Ministries!  It has been a long road of support raising, coupled with limited time on campus but now we are ready to hit it full force.

Thank you to all of our faithful supporters from those of you who have been with us from the beginning to those of you who have faithfully answered the call to help us close out the final push campaign.  We would not have made it without the prayers and support of everyone!  God has truly been faithful and it is to His glory that he has brought us to a place we once thought impossible.  We ask for continued prayers as we plan and transition to full time work on the campuses in South Bend, IN. While support raising is never truly done, it now takes a back seat to our work with student on campus.  We are truly blessed!

The Idea of Good

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The beginning of our journey with Impact Campus Ministries

Genesis 1:3-4 And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light.  And God said that the light was good. (ESV)

This is the first time good is mentioned in the Bible.  All through the account of creation God looks at the works of His own hand and calls it good.  But how did we get to the point in society that good has become less desirable?  It is sometimes considered as being just okay, passable, acceptable, or mediocre but never is it looked at as being the best, awesome, or beyond description.  Perhaps we down play the word good to much.  

By definition good can mean “to be desired or approved ofwe live at peace with each other, which is good | a good quality of life | [ as exclamation ] : Good! The more people the better! pleasing and welcomeshe was pleased to hear good news about him; expressing approval: the play had good reviews.”

If we view the word good as a noun, then it has a completely different feel to it.  “That which is morally right; righteousness: a mysterious balance of good and evil. Benefit or advantage to someone or something: he is too clever for hisown good. (goods) Merchandise or possessions: imports of luxury goods.

I want to use the word as it is used in Genesis to describe what God has done by his hand and his shaping.

Our support raising journey has not been an easy one.  If it had been, I don’t know that I would have grown in the way that I have both as a campus minister with Impact Campus Ministries and as a follower of Jesus Christ.  Anyone who has ever known me, would know that I am an introvert.  I prefer to sit, think, and observe then retreat to my own private world. As a result, sharing my story and God’s story, where he has brought me from and the vision he has placed in me for students was not second nature.   

When we started the support raising process, it was so difficult to talk with people.  I had no idea what I was doing and how to do it because I had to figure out how to open up.  To remember this was God’s gig and not my own and to trust His goodness.  There was a choice to make, “where do I want to belong, do I place my security in God?”  Basic trust has to be placed in God.  This is just one piece to the journey we have been on.  By His grace, and to His glory alone are we almost fully funded.  $62 more per month is all that is lacking to be fully funded with Impact.  Two years ago when we were looking at raising the full amount, it seemed impossible.  Now we are on the brink, and I would call the work God has done in me and with the support raising good.

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Impact the World

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Sometimes the impact that people make are immediately global… sometimes they are in our own backyard. Last week we were at a high school church camp where one of our Impact alumni and two Impact supporters baptized two young ladies into Jesus Christ. While the impact may not be on a global scale, the places Christ may call these two young ladies could very well have a global impact. From the campus, to the camp, to the world!