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.