Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Olympic Challenge

I posted this classic video clip back in 2010, but in light of the Olympics, I thought it would be a good one to re-post.  Francis Chan knows how to illustrate things in creative, compelling and challenging ways.  I love this guy!

The Lord has Need of This

[I originally wrote this post for our crucornell.com site.]

Imagine you looked outside one morning and saw two 18 year old guys opening the door of your car and getting in.  One of em’ looks a little nervous for sure, but the other one carries himself like he owns the thing!  Maybe your first thought is; “why didn’t I lock the door!?”  But as you run outside filled with panic and  rage to yell out “Hey!  What the heck do you think you are doing?”   the nervous guy looks you square in the eye and says “The Lord has need of this.”  Then he gets inside with the other guy and they drive off, waving, with a sincere look on their face that says: 

“Don’t worry man.  This is going to be awesome!”

   [29] When he drew near to Bethphage and Bethany, at the mount that is called Olivet, he sent two of the disciples, [30] saying, “Go into the village in front of you, where on entering you will find a colt tied, on which no one has ever yet sat. Untie it and bring it here.  [31] If anyone asks you, ‘Why are you untying it?’ you shall say this: ‘The Lord has need of it.’ (Luke 19:29-31)

What would be going thru your mind!?  And what was going thru the disciples mind as they walked  toward Bethany to untie  some guys prize donkey.  I say “prize” not because I think it was  a county fair  blue ribbon winner but because in a first century agrarian community a donkey would have been  one valuable tool!  It was your tractor, your truck and your personal transportation.  I imagine the disciples proceeding with faith along with their usual bewilderment, no doubt hoping to get that donkey and get out of town without anybody asking questions.  “Just tell them  the Lord has need of this?  He had said.  Would that work?
I think of this passage every year at the end of September when  our ministry is getting ready to go to  the Upstate Fall getaway.  I also think about it on the second Friday night of the semester when we host a raging bonfire just off campus to welcome new students.   Sometimes I think about it on Friday afternoons when we need to move sound equipment across campus to our meeting room.  Basically, this passage comes to my mind whenever we need to transport people or equipment somewhere because I have never been to a college campus in the United States with so few cars!   In my feelings of stress and desperation I fantasize about walking calmly over to an unlocked construction van and driving off.  Of course I’d bring it back in a few days.  And if anyone asked me what I was doing, I’d tell them the truth.  “The Lord has need of this.”
” [32] So those who were sent went away and found it just as he had told them. [33] And as they were untying the colt, its owners said to them, “Why are you untying the colt?” [34] And they said, “The Lord has need of it.” [35] And they brought it to Jesus, and throwing their cloaks on the colt, they set Jesus on it.  (Luke 19:32-35)

Looking for a natural explanation, some might speculate that  Jesus already knew the Donkey owner  or that some sort of arrangements had been  made before.    It is conceivable that the guy knew who Jesus was, -but since He said  “why are you untying my colt?  we can’t conclude that he understood all that was happening.   It seems pretty clear that they were caught off  guard.  So we could surmise that it all worked out because  the colt was owned by an old elementary school buddy of Lazarus’, but what we actually see here is the Word of God going forth with power.  I imagine that fear was replaced with excitement and paranoia with peace in this situation because of Christ’s authority.  “they told them what Jesus had said.” 

And what might have looked like a couple of high school punks gaffing a dude’s valuable asset  was actually the Lord calling a man –inviting a family perhaps to play an active  role in the advancement of His Kingdom.  It was a simple donation.  But upon that donkey Jesus entered Jerusalem; fulfilling prophesy and marching towards the cross where he made a way for us to be reconciled with God.   

Our ministry exists see students reconciled with God.  And I’m writing this to you –students and parents to ask for a simple donation.  As we labor together to advance God’s kingdom and  proclaim the good news of Christ’s reconciling work


Faster than walking and smoother than riding a donkey, the wheel is a glorious invention!  And in our ministry we don’t have enough of them!  Not even close! 

Over the years students like Ben Hutton, Joe Teirab, Sarah Furnish and Larry Lin have served our whole ministry and even those outside our ministry by bringing cars to school.  Without  guys like Barret, Tyler, and Eddy and girls like Charlene, Nicole, and Tricia the army of God at Cornell would be even less mobile than it is now! 

And I am writing this post specifically to ask students and parents to please pray and consider seriously the benefits of bringing a car to school.

If you have a car, or if you can possibly scrape together the means to buy one on craigslist I am saying to you now,
The Lord has need of it!

I know there are many different factors and concerns related to this issue.  In my next post, I will take the time to sketch out a little cost/benefit analysis.  

Friday, July 20, 2012

Leadership, New Birth, and run-aways. (Seniors 2012)

I still remember meeting Nelson during our first fall semester at a kick-off event up on North Campus.

He was sporting a tasteful but truly ‘pimpn’ gold chain and a well matched outfit.  He came by our table and I got to connect with him just a little bit.  He was living in a “program House” here called the “LLC” or Latino Living Center and since I was planning to lead a  community group up there I invited him to check it out.
                                                                                                                                                         Throughout his freshman year Nelson was a pretty consistent part of our small  group and he plugged in to our ministry full on.  He got to know other freshman dudes like Owen. 

Owen is boisterous, fun and loud –traits we fully discovered the first time he showed up to one of our bonfires.  Taking hold of the 8 pound wood splitter, Owen lead the men passionately taking on the toughest logs and turning them into burnable sticks.
During the summer between his freshman and sophomore year here at Cornell, Owen was seriously considering transferring schools to attend a small Christian school down in Florida.  I personally thought that was a lame idea mostly because he was such 

a passionate leader and we had a lot of work to do here!   I was hoping and praying that he’d return to Cornell  (and thankfully so were his parents!)   I called him two weeks before classes started to ask him what his plan was.  Even at that point he was waffling back and forth and I was like “dude, classes are about to start!  You’ve gotta make a decision!”   Shortly after that, he told me he’d be back in the fall, and I made plans to co-lead a community group on West Campus with him.   I'm so glad he came back!  I can't imagine our movement here without him!

While at Cornell both Owen and Nelson were pre-med. 
They did well, but that path is definitely a challenge and carving out free time was always a chore.  I loved seeing Owen on the Big Break trips because he seemed so free from the day to day stresses of life on campus.  He’d absolutely come alive leading, revving everybody up and engaging the lost.  For my kids, Owen will always be a legend because it once took like 10 people to wrestle him into the ocean surf.   Throughout the afternoon he’d been mischievously  and methodically ushering his fellow students into the water against their will.   But to get him back required some extreme team work!

Although both Owen and Nelson grew up church, College was a time of significant growth in Christ.  And for Nelson, it really wasn’t until late in his junior year that he truly became born again. 

Throughout that year, Nelson had been wrestling with God about different things, all the while staying fairly plugged in. It was a season of struggling in many ways.   He and I didn’t meet up on a weekly basis, but we’d catch up whenever we could to talk about life and Jesus.
I remember well though the afternoon, we’d planned to meet up,  and then for some reason, I had to call him and cancel on him.  But, it was the Lord’s will for us to hang out and so a couple of hours later, while walking thru Sage hall, I saw Nelson studying.   He had some time free and so did I  so we grabbed some cokes and sat down. 

I asked him how things were going, and his answer completely blew me away!   
“I think I just became a Christian last night.”   
“Are you serious?”  I responded.  “Tell me what happened.” 

Nelson proceeded to tell me the incredible story of God meeting him in a transforming and personal way.  Sin had been working him over and yet he felt compelled to seek after God.  He ended up reading through the copy of “For Your Joy” that we often give away.   He read through the whole thing and he told me that “everything just made sense.”  The familiar content of the gospel came alive to him in a new and clear way.  The scriptural truths regarding life in Christ were becoming real to him in a way that they really hadn’t before.  He sensed he needed to respond somehow.  Grabbing a copy of our Knowing God Personally booklet sitting nearby, he read it through as well.  At the end, he felt the Holy Spirit prompting him to get off of his bed, kneel down and pray to Jesus.  He surrendered his life and put real faith in God. 

I had assumed that Nelson was a believer already.  In addition to professing belief in Jesus, he had demonstrated a commitment to the body of Christ, he had participated in mission and had exhibited zeal and fruitfulness.  And yet, he realized that in his heart, he had not yet fully come alive and submitted to Christ as Lord. 

And so, sitting in the Sage Hall snack bar I rejoiced with him and thanked God for mercifully pursuing and revealing himself. 

There was one other student who was constantly hanging out with Owen, Nelson and those guys throughout college.    Joey is a gifted, charismatic, incredibly social party animal who actually had an encounter with God during his freshman year.    When I first met him, he was trying to seek after God.  He was also studying engineering which I felt was a terrible fit in light of his personality and giftings.  I told him he should look into the hotel school which he did and shortly after that he became changed his major. 

That next summer, he plunged deeper into a life of partying and recklessness abandoning the call of God.  I don’t think there is a single other non-Christian student at Cornell who I have prayed for more than Joey.    Since the first day I met him, I have sensed that God has a plan for him and I’ve dreamed of how God could use him, if he would stop living for his own glory and recognize God’s.   And yet up to this point, the world’s idols have continued to captivate his heart.   For me, Joey serves serves as a tragic example –a literal poster child of what it looks like to waste Cornell.  He graduated.  And, he is set for worldly success in all kinds of ways.  But he is missing the thing that matters most. 

I continue to pray for Joey in hopes that some day he will experience the transformation of the Gospel.  

I found this old picture of the guys trying to get Owen into the water

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Sustaining Verses

I don't have much time to write, but I want to give a short update about what we are up to.

This past weekend, we were in New Jersey at Seed of Life church near Camden. I was invited to preach at their Sunday service.  It was an awesome trip -mostly because Pastor Isaias Munoz and his family were so unbelievably hospitable.  I've recently been reflecting and reading about the ways that all ministry is really a form of hospitality and the Munoz family extended an incredible Christ-centered welcome to us in every way.  Our time with them was thoroughly refreshing.  I'll certainly have to write more about them later.

Currently, we are in the midst of raising support.  Things are going o.k. and God is faithfully providing financial ministry partners as he always does.  But we don't have as much raised at this point as I would like, and so that is a bit stressful really. It's overwhelming for a variety of reasons.  Times of stress are when we must fight hardest to believe the gospel and rely on God.

the Psalmists cry out in Psalm 55 is truly a blessing right now.  In particular, we were meditation on verse 22

[22] Cast your burden on the LORD,
and he will sustain you;
he will never permit
the righteous to be moved.

Psalm 143 has also been a powerful prayer guide:

[7] Answer me quickly, O LORD!
My spirit fails!
Hide not your face from me,
lest I be like those who go down to the pit.
[8] Let me hear in the morning of your steadfast love,
for in you I trust.
Make me know the way I should go,
for to you I lift up my soul.

I've also been reading a biography on Dawson Trotman.  "Daws" was the founder of the Navigators -my second favorite campus ministry.  Every time I read about Dawson I get inspired.  I love that guy!  In one of his books, he's got an incredible quote regarding prayer that I really appreciate.

Do you know why I often ask Christians, ‘What’s the biggest thing you’ve asked God for this week?’ I remind them that they are going to God, the Father, the Maker of the Universe. The One who holds the world in His hands. What did you ask for? Did you ask for peanuts, toys, trinkets, or did you ask for continents? I want to tell you, young people, it’s tragic! The little itsy-bitsy things we ask of our Almighty God. Sure, nothing is too small—but also nothing is too big. Let’s learn to ask our big God some of those big things He talks about in Jeremiah 33:3 ‘Call unto Me and I will answer thee, and show thee great and mighty things that knowest not” (The Navigator, Robert Foster, pg. 26).

Here's a link with a quick story of Dawson's conversion: http://theresurgence.com/2009/10/20/transformed-by-gods-word-the-story-of-dawson-trotmans-conversion 

Monday, July 2, 2012

Teaching For America (Seniors 2012)

I mentioned before that a few of our Graduating seniors are going to be working for Teach for America (TFA) this coming year.  Teach for America is an organization committed to ensuring that kids living in poverty get a quality education.
TFA Recruits from Cornell 
TFA recruits quality college grads like Paul Bennetch, Bethany Nichols, James Bor, Quip Turner, and  Amanda Maas to serve kids as teachers in a low income area for two years.

Paul Bennetch has been a part of Cru since the first week of his freshman year.   He recalled on Senior Share night the day he met (Cru intern) Ben Hutton at a kick-off event.  In his typical style Ben explained the gospel and vision of Cru in a thorough and compelling way and Paul decided he didn't even need to check out any other fellowships.  Truthfully though, Paul was a blessing to the whole body of Christ at Cornell working to organize inter-fellowship events including the large scale Veritas Forum this past spring.  

Paul got married while in college; something I personally am a fan of. (At least in part because I did it myself;)  Paul and Emily were our resident married couple -poster children for the amazing institution that God has ordained for his glory and our good.  They hosted a Community Group in their home providing warm gospel hospitality to Christ-followers and seekers alike.

Paul is hoping to serve in Denver, Colorado.
Bethany (L) and Amanda will both serve with TFA
Bethany Nichols comes from a family of educators.  She will be working with students in New York city next year.  Her enthusiasm and energy will be greatly missed here, but will be critical as she tries to adjust to the notoriously busy TFA schedule.  (read more about Bethany here.)
Throughout college, Paul, Bethany and James Bor were like the Three Amigos (with one being an Amiga of course.)  As Iron sharpens iron, they were a group of friends who consistently challenged one another to walk with Christ and live by faith.  They supported one another through doubt, hardship and struggle, truly bearing each others burdens and enabling authentic Christian growth.

James also got involved with Cru* his freshman year.  Over the years we got to spend time together doing everything from studying the Bible to laying ceramic tile in Nic Brenner's house.  James is a servant, a fun loving guy and an extremely intentional person.  Like Paul and Bethany, he's also very articulate and able to explain the gospel clearly to people in a way that's understandable.   Those traits served him well when he joined a fraternity on campus.  James labored to bring the love of Christ into the infamously crazy Greek System.  It was a challenge in every way but his effort and example have paved the way for others to be agents of redemption in a place that greatly needs redeeming.  

One of my most vivid memories of James is of him winning (every year!) our Root Beer Chugging contest!  He absolutely dominated! 

James will be serving down South in the Mississippi Delta region.  

I remember the first time I met Quip Turner. We met and shook hands at an on-campus event called Light  that promotes the cause of World Missions.  Quip was a transfer student and it was his sophomore year.  Nic Brenner also shook his hand and said "hi."  Later, Nic and I were standing behind him conferring that we had both heard the same thing.  "Quip?"  Apparently so. 

I enjoyed hanging out with Quip right off the bat because he liked to talk theology.  Hailing from Dallas he had attended The Village church and was a fan of gospel-centered Bible teaching.  Quip plugged in to Nic's Community Group and occasionally helped lead worship at Real Life.  A couple of summer's ago he also got to help lead the Summer Christian Fellowship.  Quip is set to teach in Oklahoma.  

Amanda Maas also transferred to Cornell her sophomore year.  She worked for TFA and is at least partly responsible for generating such intense interest in the organization.  In her Senior Share testimony she emphasized really digging in and investing in one another's lives.   Amanda will be in Texas for the next couple of years.  

*James is a great friend and throughout college he remained connected with Cru.  During his Junior and Senior year however, he primarily gave leadership to Intervarsity's Greek Ministry.  

Monday, June 25, 2012

Kufre Inyang (Seniors 2012)

I mentioned in my last post that many of our students who have been most impacted by the weekly evangelistic outreaches have been very quiet and typically reserved students.  One such evangelist is Kufre Inyang.   

Kufre hails from Houston, Texas and he and I met a few years ago at a Chinese Bible study meeting  here on campus.  I remember it clearly, because he and I were two of the only non-Asian's at the meeting. He was quite comfortable in that setting, so I was immediately interested to know his story.    I could tell right away that he was very un-pretentious.   We got some time to hang out a few months later while "chalking" the campus walkways -the preferred method of advertising at Cornell -before an Easter Sunday service.   There I discovered that Kufre is a man of steadfast action and often very few words.  (For example, on "Senior Share night" he got up and spoke from the heart for about a minute and a half.  Powerful and concise.)

He’s regarded as a “Gentle Giant” of sorts among his friends.  He is a kind and compassionate person though he might strike you at first as a tough guy.   His peers respect him and appreciate his authenticity, dependability and loyalty.   Although he’s quiet, those who know him best describe him as passionate. 

Kufre is defined by his commitment, dedication and persevering spirit.   For 4 years he has served faithfully in the Christian community and in our ministry at Cornell.  Along with Tom and the rest of the EvMOSGo team he gave leadership to the weekly EV.   That required him to step outside of his comfort zone and engage people socially.  Because he is so naturally introverted, I know this was a challenge and a step of faith.   He served consistently as a volunteer in our ministry and took on responsibilities willingly.   He has a few friends who know him intimately, but everyone knows you can count on him for help, and if you give him a task, he will follow thru.  If you ask him to be there, he will show up. 

Kufre is a capable leader and efficient organizer.  He both participated and coached intramural sports teams and lead out with Cru.  Kufre will be missed at Cornell.  

Because Kufre is such an athletic beast; one of my fondest memories at Cornell was at the fall getaway when I scored two goals on Kufre in a game of "Big Red Ball!"  

Monday, June 18, 2012

Old School EV (Seniors 2012)

Historically, Campus Crusade for Christ (or Cru as we are now called) has been infamous for walking up to people and intentionally starting a conversation about God, often sharing the short 4 point Gospel outline originally put together by Bill Bright.   It was first titled "the 4 spiritual laws" and that's certainly been the name that stuck, but over the years it's taken on new titles (and colors) including our present rendition which we call the "Knowing God Personally booklet" or the "KGP"
There is great value in learning how to share your faith using a simple outline or pamphlet even though they are limited and nobody has ever written the "perfect" one.  (A common critique is that pamphlets, tracts and illustrations are "reductionistic" and fail to convey the fullness of the gospel.  That's true.  And actually, every time the Gospel is shared it is necessarily "reduced" in some way for the sake of time, intelligibility and application.....in preaching, in Bible study or in pamphlets.)

On the whole Cru doesn't do as much "cold contact" evangelism as we used to.  This is mainly because it doesn't connect with people like it used to.   I think this is because the Biblical presuppositions that most short pamphlets rely on are not as familiar to people and are definitely not as embraced.  With that, our culture is generally more skeptical towards Christians, the Bible and the Christian message than it once was, and when you are initiating conversations with strangers, it's harder to engage in a way that builds adequate trust and addresses the important questions that people are wrestling with.  Therefore, we spend more energy building relationships and fostering a Gospel saturated community on campus.   We move out engaging the people around us lovingly, demonstrating the power of Christ actively and proclaiming the good news conversationally.  In our ministry at Cornell, we rely on our Community Groups to be our primary vehicle for evangelism and discipleship. 

But, that doesn't mean that we don't still get out and do a little "old school" evangelism anymore.  I believe that there is still a place for going out intentionally and starting conversations with people about our glorious God.  As a ministry, we want everyone on campus to hear the good news.  And since the day I got here, there have been at least a few students who wanted to get out every week and share their faith in this formal manner.  We don't necessarily use the booklets every time, but students do go out and intentionally start spiritual conversations with others.  To those who say that doesn't work anymore (especially at a place like Cornell) we simply point to student leaders like Kejing who came to know Christ in large part because of conversations started when some students went out sharing their faith one afternoon.  God works in all sorts of ways!

Over the years we've had "Thursday EV".  It's a pretty simple format.  A group of students will get together about dinner time and spend a few minutes praying and talking about the gospel.  Then they will pair up and head out either to dinner or to another place where students are hanging out and initiate a conversation or two about Jesus.  Then, if time permits, they'll come back together to pray and praise God for the opportunities he provided.

To me, one amazing thing about the "Thursday EV" on campus is the way that it has consistently been led by really quiet people.  You might think that this type of overt conversation starting would be a job for the gregarious, but unbelievably it's been just the opposite.  Over the years, the people who have faithfully carried the leadership mantle, organizing and carrying out these evangelistic efforts on campus each week have been incredibly introverted people.  Guys and girls who are naturally very quiet and reserved get together to proclaim the gospel.  In fact, I would say that the greatest benefit of this ministry outlet is the way it's enabled some of our most reticent students to step out with faith-filled boldness.

Among this years seniors who were a big part of the Thursday EV were Tom Rudelius as well as Albert Chen and  Andrew Ferguson.

Albert Chen actually came to Christ here with us during his freshman year.  Over the years he was a faithful part of our EvMOSGo team as well as our tech team.  In addition to leading out in evangelism, Albert helped our ministry get involved in community service projects like Cornell's "Into the Streets."

Albert is a man of genuine compassion and was a true 'behind the scenes' leader in our ministry.  Next year he'll be at University of Wisconsin Madison continuing his studies in microbiology.

Andrew Ferguson shared at our End of the Year Dessert, and his comments are posted below.
Andrew Ferguson on far right with fellow Cru Seniors Owen Amadasun, Kufre Inyang and Nelson Maldonado

I've been in Cru since my second semester of freshman year. Ever since I came, one of the biggest things that was emphasized was evangelism. At Cru I really gained an understanding of the importance of being missional and helping to lead others to Christ.  The very first time I ever did EV was my freshman year.   That night I was with Daniel Cox and Bezhad and being new to this I sat back and watched at first. Then for the next person we approached, I decided to give it a go and tell a bit about the gospel. At that point I realized that even though I grew up in a Christian home going to church every Sunday, I still wrestled with articulating the gospel clearly. Fortunately, it was late at night in College town and the fellow was drunk and so he may of not took to heart the misleading statements I made that night. 

Last year I started going to the Thursday EV and that really encouraged me in being more bold and realizing that EV is not as intimidating as it might seem. They introduced me to [some different tools] which I found to be a good initiator for gospel centered discussion that made it much less daunting for me since I was still a beginner. Doing EV with some of the guys like Nick, Kufre, Tom, and Regi has challenged me to grow in this area of my faith and it has encouraged me as I saw fruit from it. At  times, I was surprised by how God put words in my mouth while evangelizing to say things in ways I myself had never thought of. 

One time Bryan from the Korean Church and I did EV during Cru's Thursday EV  and we had a good conversation with an agnostic using the Perspective cards, however, it didn't end in any prayer of repentance and acceptance of Jesus so I forgot about it. A semester later I saw this person in one of the on campus prayer meetings and I talked to her and she told me that she had started going to a Chinese fellowship and that she has become more serious about her faith. That really encouraged me and helped me realize that although we can't always see how God is working in peoples hearts, we just need to be faithful laborers and sow the seeds of the gospel and water through prayer and leave God to perform the rest. 

(Mt 28:19) Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,
-I want to encourage you to step out and EV.

(Mt 13:23) But he who received seed on the good ground is he who hears the word and understands it, who indeed bears fruit and produces: some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty.”
-Inevitably, you will end up sowing on good ground and reaping a harvest.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Tom EvMOSGo (Seniors 2012)

What does EvMOSGo mean?  Though it looks like a word created by my son Titus when he's pretending to send a text message, EvMOSGo is actually the name of one of our student ministry teams.  On campus, we have 4 leadership teams that take care of planning and executing most of our ministry activities.  (These teams operate in cooperation with our Community Groups)  The names pretty much describe what area the team leads in -Prayer, Web/Tech, Community, and EvMOSGo -which means Evangelism, Missions, Outreach, Service, Go!  Truly, the EvMOSGo team could actually be 5 teams, and most likely as we continue to grow, it will spiral out into more specialized leadership teams.  But for now it's a catch-all team that has consistently worked to keep our ministry focused on taking the gospel to the campus and the world.

Next year the EvMOSGo team will be filling in some big holes left by guys like Tom Rudelius.  Tom will be moving on to his next campus mission field; Harvard.  There he'll continue his studies in physics.

Tom gave his life to Jesus just a couple of years ago after his twin brother Steve prompted him to explore the claims of Christ.  Tom's journey to faith was somewhat dramatic as God used a State Department intern application and a series of 6 polygraph tests to help him see his sin with a clarity most of us will never get.  Taking the polygraph was an intense exercise in confession that God used to powerfully show Tom how much he needed grace; to convince him thoroughly that he was not the "good person" he imagined himself to be.  Exploring the gospel in conjunction with taking the polygraph tests was so transformative Tom practically recommends everybody try it.

Tom got to carry a flag for graduation
Tom loves the story of Zacheus in Luke 19 and includes it each time he shares his testimony.  Jesus' grace changed everything for Zacheus and his life did a 180.  Tom, like Zacheus immediately began living differently, expending himself to make right things that his sin had made wrong.
Two summers ago he also went on a Summer Project with Campus Crusade to Haiti where his heart for evangelism grew tremendously.  Over the past couple of years Tom has vehemently championed his class-mates to share their faith every week.

This summer Tom will spend some time in Africa distributing mosquito nets to prevent the spread of malaria.  After that he'll head to to Boston.

In addition to being a Physics genius, Tom loves sports.  He worked with the Intramural department throughout his time here at Cornell  Someday maybe he'll be a professional referee.....seriously.  

Monday, June 4, 2012

Graduation Day(Seniors 2012)

Some of our Cru Seniors of 2012
A little over a week ago was Graduation day at Cornell University.  I have still never been to the commencement ceremonies -but I had wanted to go this year!  The class of 2012 was the first class that we got see go all the way through; in essence they were our senior class.  We only beat them here by a semester (we arrived at Cornell in January 2008) so they were the first group that we raised up.   Their passing marks the end of an era in a sense.

We got to host  a wonderful reception here at our house for students and their parents.  It was great to able to connect with a number of those students who we've been mentoring and ministering alongside for 4 years now.   So many of them are more than students involved in our ministry, but they are truly friends.  (in coming posts, I'd like to highlight a few more, but I'll mention a couple right now.)

Over the years, the senior I've been able to spend the most time with by far is Larry Lin.  Larry is more than a student leader, or even a co-laborer, but he's like family!  A couple of years ago, he actually got to spend Christmas with our family here in Ithaca.  We got to meet Larry's brothers and mom at our reception.

I still remember meeting Larry from San Jose (California) the first week of his freshman year.  We hung out and I was impressed right away by his conviction and his bold hilarious antics.  Shortly before coming to college he took a "senior road trip"with some high school buddies.  They had a ton of fun, but they also had purpose.  At various cities along the way they stopped and bought cases of water bottles.  Then, they would hang out on street corners in areas where there were lots of homeless people handing out the water to strangers and homeless people just to bless them in the name of Christ.  From the beginning I knew that we needed leaders like Larry in our budding movement - Jesus loving guys who had missional intentionality and a heart for fun!  During his first weeks of classes at Cornell, Larry started up a "name tag club" where he handed out name tags just to meet new people.  With only a little prodding, Larry came with us to the Upstate Fall Getaway in the fall of 2008 and he's been serving with Cru ever since.
One of my favorite couples int he world; Larry and Van-Kim
 Larry is going to intern with Campus Crusade's Epic ministry in Washington D.C. next year.  We really, really wanted him to stay here with us, but for a number of good reasons -mostly a really good girl actually Larry is going to serve with Cru in D.C.

We will miss Larry next year a lot.  Over the years Larry has given leadership to small groups, our large group meeting (called Real Life) our praise band and our whole ministry.  He's been an incredible role-model leading out in evangelism and missions as well as theological formation.

Bethany Nichols is another student who plugged in with Cru right from the beginning.  She'd been involved with Young Life in high school, so she came to college looking for a group of crazy Christians to hang out with.  Our ministry was much smaller back then, so there weren't too many girls around to give her a warm welcome, but lucky for all of us Bethany brings her own warm welcome wherever she goes!  She's literally one of the most outgoing, friendly people you could ever meet and she's been an incredible blessing to everyone in our ministry over the years.

The first week of school back in '08 we had set up a game of Ultimate Frisbee out in the grass on North campus just to meet new people.    It was a total bust!  It ended up being me, our intern staff member Ben Hutton and senior John Sullivan.....and Bethany!  She showed up, and rather than leaving and never coming to another Cru event again, she engaged with us, persevered thru the awkwardness and over the years helped make our movement what it is today.
Over the years Bethany has been able to love and pour into numerous younger girls.  She gave an incredible talk at our large group meeting a few weeks ago walking us the high times and the low times of her spiritual life at college.  It was a powerful presentation of the way God works to graciously love and sustain his children.  We were sincerely hoping Bethany would intern with us, but in the end things didn't work out because she was already set to serve for two years with Teach For America.  She'll be in New York City next fall blessing elementary school kids.

We also got the chance to meet Bethany's family which was a real privilege.

Bethany is currently dating one of our good friends Barrett Keene.  They are one of my other favorite couples in the world!

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Clip of the Week: Jesus Paid it all

I just found this video the other day.  This song has ministered to us for the past several months.  My niece Gabby started singing this song when we were all with my dad, so we began to sing it together as a family.  We also sang it at my dad's funeral.

The song itself is thoroughly gospel-centered, and the way they incorporated all the elements together at this passion conference in 2006 is pretty dynamic I think.  Great song, cool video.


Monday, April 2, 2012

Is Jesus gonna Rage on YOU?

While driving across town a while back, my 5 year old son Joe, asked his brother Ty (4 yrs old); “Hey Ty, do you know if Jesus is going to throw a rage on you?  

That question originated a few days previous, when Joe and I were talking about Jesus.  He wanted me to tell him again about Easter, and since we driving a long ways I figured I’d start at the beginning of “Holy Week,” or the last week before Jesus was crucified.  In Matthew 21, we see Jesus enter Jerusalem triumphantly.  This is what we commemorated yesterday on “Palm Sunday.”    Jesus is praised as he rides into the city on a donkey. 

After that, (Matthew 21, Mark 11, Luke 19) he enters the Temple where he becomes incensed at the way that God’s holy ‘house of prayer’ has been turned into a commercial center.   The temple has been desecrated by religious Mafioso’s making money, and conducting shady business.    People come to worship God, but they end up being swindled by thieves.   There is a misplaced focus that is both distracting and profane and what’s really being stolen is more than monetary.  People are being led astray and the atmosphere is impeding worship and communion with God.  

Infuriated by the blasphemy of it all, Jesus makes a whip  and starts spankin’ some people!  (Hey Jesus....what are you making? You're a good braider!...Oh dude!  Watch out!  It's getting crazy!!!)  He comes unglued and starts running around yelling, turning the tables over, dumping money boxes, breaking stuff and absolutely trashing the place.   Wood splinters, scales clank and animals run free!  His anger is righteous as he confronts sin and idolatry with violent action.   

I really like this story, and my boy Joe was already familiar with this story of Jesus “throwing a rage.”    God is not passive, and Jesus didn’t just wander around spouting platitudes in a calm sounding voice!  He is intense, passionate and even buck wild!   But, as we talked about Jesus’ strength and active opposition to sinfulness;  Joe asked genuinely “How do we know Jesus won’t throw a rage on us some day?” 

“How do we know Jesus won’t throw a rage on us 
some day?” 

I stopped and said to him; “that is an awesome question bud!”

Joe, in his thoughtful way asked this question with awareness that we are sinful.  It’s easy for us to read the Bible and imagine that we are different than the “robbers” conducting business in the temple courts, but my son already knows that we really aren’t.  Those guys were living for themselves,  they were looking out for number one, they exalted and trusted in money, they lacked integrity.  They were caught up and consumed with worldly affairs.   At the core they were self-centered and un-concerned with the Glory of God.   And that’s how all of us are!  He figured "if they deserved a whippin, don't we also?" 

We affirm openly and often in our family the truth that everyone sins, (Rom. 3:23) that our rebellious sin nature compels all to sin and fall short of God’s glorious standard.  So, if God actively hates sin, how do we know that God won’t throw a rage on us some day?    Should we live in fear that at any moment God’s long fuse is going to come to an end and he’ll lash out with destruction towards us?   

If we are Christians, the answer to that question is NO, and here is what I reminded Joe of.  God hates sin, and as he demonstrates at various points in the Bible his wrath against it is active and effective.   And the truth is, that we actually deserve to die because of our animosity towards God.  Put  very simply, our badness is not compatible with God’s goodness.  (Romans 6:23)  But that’s why God  sent Jesus (his Son) to die on the cross.  What happened on the cross is that Jesus bore the sin of the world –Paul even says he actually “became sin” (2Corinthians 5:21) and took the punishment for us, the punishment we deserve. (John 3:16)  The nails were agonizing, certainly, but the real pain of the cross was from God the father who inflicted the son, and abandoned him. (Isaiah 53) The righteous beat-down given to the money-changers in the temple was nothing compared to what Christ endured on the cross.    Before he died, Jesus said “it is finished”.  (John 19:30)

Three days later, he rose.  And just this morning, sitting around the breakfast table, Joe reminded us that as Christians, we can be sure that God won’t throw a rage on us because Jesus already took the rage on the cross.   That’s grace!

Jesus already took God's rage on the cross. 

Of course, if you choose not to follow Jesus and to reject him as savior then you don’t have that peace.  Let the temple story remind you that God’s hate for sin is real, and his rage is effective.  

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Big Break Delivers

CRU's annual Big Break is a power pack combo of  mission trip, conference, Jesus party and road trip all rolled into one.  This worthy adventure delivered as usual this year as we accompanied 37 students to Panama City Beach Florida for a week of worship, fellowship and outreach to spring breaking college students out on the beach.

There is truly nothing like Big Break and it serves as a venue for training in evangelism as well as personal growth for our students.  It's also the time of year when our kids get to spend the most concentrated time with our students.

This year was extra special because we re-united with our Cornell students after a few months apart.

Jack with Isaias Munoz

Joe with Larry Lin
The students put together a Vodcast each day to briefly highlight the days events.  You can find all 7 on youtube here http://www.youtube.com/user/cornellcrusade

In episode 5, Kevin highlights some conversations he and I had when we initiated an impromptu taxi service at midnight on Tuesday night.  The second guy we gave a ride to had literally been approached by three different groups of Christians throughout the day to talk about Jesus.  He'd engaged in three different gospel conversations, and he was literally beginning to get the message that God actually loved him and wanted a relationship with him!  I asked him if perhaps his (Christian) ex-girlfriend was praying for him because it seemed he could not escape the good news!  He said she was.  We had a powerful conversation where he acknowledged that his extreme love for alcohol was adversely affecting his life and relationships.  He talked about wanting God to really prove himself real -and admitted that the days events could certainly be a sign!!  Being completely un-churched he expressed a desire to know more about God.  I had a copy of Bill Clem's book Disciple sitting in my van, so I gave it to him.  Disciple is a pretty thick book, not one I'd typically hand out to guys who are still seeking, but it was what I had with me.   He looked me in the eye with true heart-felt gratitude and said "I will read this book.  You haven't wasted this book.  I'm not going to throw it away, I'm not going to leave it in my hotel room. Seriously.  I want to check this out."  We prayed for him and then dropped him off at his hotel.  

Also in Vodcast 5, our kids were having a ball at the restaurant with our students.  

Friday, March 23, 2012

Fun With Broken Glass.....

We’re finishing a week in Florida with our Cornell students at CRU’s Big Break in Panama City Beach.

Our students traveled from Ithaca by bus and We left New Mexico about 10 days ago caravanning in two vehicles.

We left a day later than anticipated both because packing up took longer than expected and because Joe wanted to squeeze in a quick trip to the Emergency room.  While we loaded up the cars, our kids and their cousins were out in the desert playing with some empty beer bottles they found.  (typical kid stuff)  They were filling them with sand when Jack convinced his brothers that breaking them would be fun!  (Isn’t it?)  Titus smashed one like an angry drunk in a bar brawl holding it firmly by the bottle’s neck.  Joe wanted a turn and instead of finding a fresh one, he reached for Titus’ newly fashioned weapon.  He grabbed hold, Titus jerked it away and the blood started flowing from Joes thumb. 

So there we were in the midst of stressfull packing when a kid comes running towards us with his hand covered in blood.  Good timing!  It was actually pretty hard to determine who won the “foolish” award amongst the three competitors.

Hangin' in the ER

We went to the E.R. and thanks be to God, he didn’t need stitches.  So, we were able to leave the next day. 

Packing up in New Mexico was both arduous and emotional.  The last several months have been filled with so many different situations and experiences; care-taking for my dad, the Holidays, time with family, my father’s death, my sister’s wedding and other events along the way.  We lamented leaving our families, church friends and home town because we love them all.  But, we left with sustained conviction and confirmed sense that our calling to Cornell is from the Lord. 

We got to meet up with some family in Amarillo, TX and an old Spain (our first staff assignment) team mate –Kelly Skrapka (formerly McCarthy) in Norman Oklahoma on the way out here.  

And it was awesome to re-join with our students here! 

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Loving a Neighbor

Christ’s call to love your neighbor as you love yourself is as simple as it is difficult.  
Understanding Jesus’ love for me, and seeing the way that he completely expended himself in order to communicate that love  compels me to obey his command.  His Holy Spirit inspires me to strive after his glorious ideals, and helps me to follow after him.  But it is a struggle for sure. 

At a practical level, one thing that we have done here in Santa Fe, is plug in to a church that embraces Jesus’ mission.  And, although there are other churches here that exalt Jesus, we love BlazeChristian Fellowship because it’s a place we can bring our neighbors and invite our friends and family to.  It’s a cool church that loves this city and it’s a place where outsiders are welcome. 

I have also prayed for opportunities to actively love my neighbors and asked God to help me engage them with the truths of his Gospel.  Over the past few months, I’ve had some amazing interactions.

But, one conversation leaves me haunted.  One of them leaves me asking myself: Did I love my neighbor well enough?

I met my parents neighbor a few years ago when my brother and I went over to introduce ourselves and chat.  He was a cool guy about 4 years younger than I am.   He and his buddies were really into working on, modifying and building rat rods, 4 Wheel drive trucks, rock crawler jeeps and stuff like that.  Their large corner lot looked like a practical junk yard full of car parts, axles, wheels, trailers and tools.  In the summer time there would almost always be 4 or 5 guys in their garage hanging out, welding, turning wrenches, drinking beers and chain smoking all day and into the night. 

Shortly after meeting him, I began praying for him.  (not as often as I should have….not too consistently)   He was  artistic and creative guy who was as friendly and helpful as he was profane.  But the more I got to know him the more excited I would get thinking about how cool it would be if he gave his life to Jesus.

Six weeks ago I went down the street to borrow a tool and hang out for a bit.  He looked tired and as we hung out he started coughing and I remarked that it might be a good time to quit smoking!  He told me that he actually had a tumor in a his lung.  It wasn’t cancerous, but it was growing.   He indicated that he was getting some tests done and was trying to figure out the finances of it all.

A couple weeks later, I went over again.  In just a few weeks, he had lost weight and he wasn’t getting out too much.  He wasn’t working and I could tell things were pretty serious.  It was the middle of the day and we sat down at his table.  His kitchen counter top was full of medical paper work I told him how I’d been praying for him.  We talked about illness and how it’s a result of Sin and the fall.  I told him about my dad and about J.C.Ryles words regarding God’s purposes in sickness.  I asked him about his spiritual beliefs. 

He told me he had a Bible, but reading it was somewhat “depressing” to him.  He’d grown up in the Catholic church, but he looked at me and said “basically, I believe in myself.”  He talked about staying positive, relying on what’s inside, depending on yourself and fighting hard.   I told him, that I believed that sickness does a good job of  revealing our frailty and weakness and self confidence –especially during illness is not able to truly bring hope.  God is our strength and we talked about my dad’s faith in Jesus and the true peace that he experienced because he trusted in God.  Not himself. 

It was good.  We talked about surgical options, doctor’s opinions and other aspects of life.  But, I felt truly burdened for him.  I hoped as I left that by God’s power, the mention of God’s might, would provoke him to open his Bible and understand truth.  He didn’t seem open to Jesus, and was full of misconceptions.  Above all, he was trusting in the wrong thing.  I left praying that God would use his sickness to change him and draw him to himself. 

I wanted to go over again.  I wanted to continue our conversation.  I prayed that God would work thru his suffering. 

Last Tuesday, our neighbor died.  I could not believe it.  He had plummeted so fast and I thought he had more time. 

Though we’d talked of God in our last conversation, I really don’t have much to be encouraged about.  I had hoped we’d have at least one more talk before I left town.  I wondered if I should have pressed him harder, and wished I had tried more intensely to convey to him how worthless it is to rely on self instead of Jesus.  I’d mentioned sin, but should I have said more about  his personal sin?  I really didn’t feel like we got to hammer on our utter need for a savior.   In addition.  I cared about him, and I wondered and hoped that he felt cared for during his last days.  He had many friends, and I was basically still an acquaintance.  But, did I show Christ’s concern for his life thru my actions?  I really wish I would have visited him more in those last two weeks! 

Life was busy.  But in the end, I thought he had more time.  Everyone did I think. 

I arrived at his house about 10 minutes after he passed and it was thoroughly sad.  I was concerned for his soul, and so our grief for him has been lacking hope.   As  when he was alive, upon his death, his house was a hub of masculine energy.  The street was lined with trucks and guys were everywhere!    It would have been so glorious if it was all transformed by the Gospel.  If he had come to Christ, he could have been a witness to many, many men…..men who would typically be reluctant to set foot in a church.

Stephanie and I felt like satan was victorious in his death.  And we mourn the fact that we didn’t have more time to talk with him about Jesus and that he wasn’t able to shine as a witness for Jesus.   He will be missed by us, and by many, many more.   And we will pray for guidance and strength to love our neighbors well.