Thursday, December 30, 2010

A Sure Foundation for Encouragement

The other day I mentioned some of the things that we have found encouraging about our ministry this year. And we truly are thankful for the ways that God is moving on campus and in peoples hearts, and we have much to be grateful for in every area of our lives. But our thanks is to God and we give our praise to God because he alone is the sure foundation for our encouragement, comfort and hope.

Since this past summer I have been drawn to Philippians Chapter 2. Paul writes a whole slew of amazing things in that chapter, but I love the way he starts out; “If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love…” He goes on to exhort us to be imitators of Jesus who perfectly exemplified humility. But Paul begins essentially by inferring and acknowledging that being united with Christ should be encouraging and there should be a true sense of comfort from God’s love. This is foundational, and it is in light of these realities, and because of this truth we are able to contemplate, and imitate Jesus’ example.

So often I allow my encouragement to be based on my circumstances. We all know that that’s a pretty shaky thing to build anything on because circumstances always change and are virtually never predictable! But I find myself seeking comfort in all kinds of places and things, when I should be resting in God’s love.

Again, there are many things on campus and at home that are going well, but there is plenty of struggle and trial as well. Life is difficult, and the reality is there is never a time when everything is going good.

So what do you do when things are going bad, or when there is hardship and disappointment? What do you do when you are feeling down or discouraged? My default is to “count my blessings” and “focus on the positive”. I think those are generally virtuous options, but sometimes the math doesn’t add up and the negatives are actually outweighing the positives! (Circumstantially speaking that is.) Merely having a positive attitude and trying to focus on things that are going well doesn’t always cut it. And, that isn’t a Christ-centered approach.

No matter what is going on in life –even if we are bound with chains sitting in a jail cell for no good reason as Paul was when he wrote this- we can be encouraged. We can be comforted because present circumstances are not eternal, but God is.

So, here is a very simple example from our life. We were bummed to be here in Ithaca separated from our families for Christmas. It is disappointing not to be able to spend the Holidays with our relatives, for our kids not to be able to be with their grandparents for Christmas. It is unfortunate that we could not afford to fly to New Mexico or Colorado to celebrate with those we love. It was kind of lonely actually, to be chillin in our house for days. So, to combat my discouragement, I can do a few things. I can be positive, (and as an optimist I generally am.) I can acknowledge that we have a wonderful little family right here, and that it was great to have our friend Larry spend Christmas day with us. And I do consider it a blessing that we are all healthy and none of us is in chains in some dungeon! Those things are encouraging, and are evidences of grace that we are grateful for.

But what truly ministers to me is this reminder from God’s word that I am united with Christ and his love comforts. I wish I could have been with extended family in the southwest for Christmas, but it was just not feasible. But I AM with Jesus, and He is with us. It would be great to be munching green chile enchiladas and enjoying some warmer weather; but even better than that, I can know and experience the personal love of our great God.

There is encouragement because I’m united with Christ.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Titus in the Dirt

My hope is that over the Christmas break I can take some time to edit some home videos. This is just a short clip of Titus playing in the dirt this past summer in Santa Fe, NM. He was in the back yard at my parents house with the dogs 'Jigs' and 'Banjo'.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Ministry Encouragement

Of course it's true that “numbers aren’t everything” but as we labor to put the gospel within arms reach of thousands of students, it’s good to take account every now and then to see how things are going. So as this semester and year come to an end; how many people are involved in our ministry? The difficulty lies in both knowing who exactly we should count, and then figuring out how to count them. The fast paced and organic locomotion of this ‘movement’ compel us to operate mostly on estimates. But there are some solid numbers that we find encouraging as we praise God at the end of this semester.

We had over 105 people at our Christmas party! (We lost count at 105) Our end of semester party numbers serve as a pretty good ball park figures of how many people are involved with us. Our weekly large group meeting attendance fluctuates anywhere from 70 to 150, so the parties usually give us a nice number of how many people are most connected to Cru at Cornell. Many people came and brought friends.

This semester we had 9 Community Groups. We have been emphasizing the importance of small groups as our primary vehicles for both evangelism and discipleship. Every community group had at least 2 leaders and a couple of them had even larger leadership teams. This year we started our first grad student small group lead by one of our great friends Barrett Keene. Our small groups have an average of 8 people in them, and a vision to reach out to those living around them.

One of our most rockin’ small groups has over 20 girls! Abbi is a junior who went on the Yellowstone summer project this past summer. She is a hotel management major and she co-leads this group with one of her sorority sisters named Nicole. Their leadership and enthusiasm are blessing many of the women and most of our freshman girls are hooked up with them.

Back in September we had over 50 students go with us to our fall retreat. That retreat always serves to help students bond together and get a bigger vision of God.
We’ve got 5 Cornellians coming with us to the Boston Winter conference and two of our students will actually be playing in the BWC praise band!

Two of our staff will be going to Haiti over Winter Break. Edgar and Nic will be traveling with a team to help serve the people alongside the Campus Crusade ministry there.

Last year we took 11 students down to Florida for our Spring Break mission trip. This coming spring we are planning to drive a bus down there and we already have 26 students pre-registered for Big Break as well as 10 students gearing up to serve in Guatemala.

This semester, a group of Cru students re-launched “weekly EV”. This is a scheduled time when students gather together, pray and then go eat dinner intentionally striving to engage others in conversations about Jesus. A few weeks ago, they had 20 evangelistic conversations at dinner time.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Tree Cutting (video)

The weather is cold, the snow is over-abundant and the road salt destroys your cars.........but on the positive side; upstate NY is a pretty cool place cut your own Christmas tree!

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Tree Cutting (photos)

This past Saturday was a picture perfect day to go out and cut down a Christmas tree. I personally would be happy to buy a fake tree with the lights already on, but i have to admit, going out to this local farm was great. The snow was fresh, the trees were nice, and inside the house they had cocoa, chili and hot dogs!

Just for the record, Stephanie really wanted to get the tree last week! I was the guy who couldn't get it all together til now. A few days ago, she was lamenting that we were surely the last people to get a tree! I said, "No way! Call your sister Shauna. I bet they don't have their tree up yet." But, just my luck she did! Why!?

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Following Jesus

Jesus said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” John 8:12

Throughout the Bible, we see Jesus beckoning people, inviting people and exhorting people to follow him. While Jesus was on earth, people were given the chance to actually follow him by walking beside him as he travelled and by physically migrating with him to those houses, mountain tops and beaches where he was spending time teaching and performing miracles. They could see him and hear his voice clearly. They could walk down the road with him, eat with him, or go fishing with him! To follow Jesus meant you would hang out with him, learn his teachings and do life with him. There were times during Jesus’ earthly ministry when he was virtually a celebrity and tons of people were flocking to where he was. There were other instances when he was regarded much more negatively and only those closest to him were by his side; though even they struggled to ‘follow him’ during those darkest hours.

Those men and women who followed Jesus were called his “disciples”, a word that literally means “follower, student, pupil and associate.” The call of Christ is to trust him and to imitate him by living like him and doing those things that he commands.

The word Christian actually means “little Christ” and was first used as an insult to describe believers in the early days of the Church who were following Jesus with their lives. They understood the call and were motivated by gratitude and worship in light of who Jesus is and what he had done for them. They understood what Jesus’ disciple John meant when he said “Whoever claims to live in him must live as Jesus did.”

Today, Jesus is not physically present on earth, but he reins in the hearts and lives of his disciples spiritually by the power of his Holy Spirit. Though absent in the flesh, Christ continues to call men and women to follow him.

Following Jesus means putting our trust or our faith in him. The truth is, everybody has faith in something or someone, and everyone is following somebody. Jesus’ call to follow him, is an exhortation to abandon our allegiances to inferior philosophies, lifestyles, and gods and to surrender all to him. He is king of the universe, and his call is a call to freedom, life and joy!

Jesus calls his followers to walk the road he walked, so this path of freedom and joy also involves suffering. Many times we can forget this aspect of discipleship, but it is critical that we understand it if we are to rightly follow Jesus.

Just before Jesus left the earth, he reminded his disciples that he would never leave them and that in fact he would always be with them. He has left us with his Word –the Bible so we can know him. He has given us prayer so that we can communicate with him, and he has given us each other so that we might follow him together –unified and filled with his spirit, we are His body.

(this post also available at