Wednesday, October 1, 2014

"Take to heart all the words I have solemnly declared to you this day... They are not just idle words for you - they are your life." Deuteronomy 32:46-47

Thank you to each of you who has prayed for the Focus ministry.  God has honored your petitions by blessing our staff and students immensely.  Without His continued grace, we would be without purpose and without hope.  But because of God's great love for us, He directs us on a path that leads toward our blessed hope of His coming kingdom.

Students at our UTD Fall Camp
God's kingdom is growing on our campuses thanks to God's blessing and the hard work of our students, interns, and staff.  Pictured above are all the students who attended UTD's Fall Camp on the last weekend of September.  Fall Camp is a 24-hour overnight camp where we give our students a chance to strengthen and solidify the friendships they have started in the first four or five weeks they've been on campus.  The emphasis for this weekend is not as much on preaching or teaching, but on deepening spiritual relationships.  As a staff, we believe that meaningful life change is forged in relationships with other Spirit-filled people more than it ever will be through hard-hitting sermons.  That's why we invest a weekend in getting these students together at a campground to talk, eat snacks, play games, and spend time worshiping God shoulder-to-shoulder with their brothers and sisters in Christ.

Last year, some crazy weather issues prevented us from having an event like Fall Camp.  This year, we are especially grateful that God answered our prayers with comfortable temperatures and plenty of sunshine!

Group games at camp led by Ana (foreground, left) and Autumn (foreground, right)

Some of our beautiful UTD girls.  From left to right: Layla, Kimberly, Racquel, and Savannah

Being a part of the Focus staff is not just about fun and games with college students.  Our staff, and especially our interns, are serious students of God and His word.  This semester, I am joining the interns in a twelve week class covering the entire Old Testament.  There is not nearly enough time in this class to examine the individual texts in depth, but we are taking a bird's eye view approach to understanding the foundational themes that recur throughout the Old Testament.  Through this class, I am getting to know our interns better as we learn together.  At first, the Old Testament seemed dry and daunting to some of my classmates.  The textbook we are using, a graduate-level overview that analyzes various theories of the composition and redaction of each Old Testament book, also presents challenges to our group; we have one intern who studied literature in graduate school, but our other interns mostly majored in subjects far removed from ancient Near Eastern history or exegetical literary analysis.  As we move through this class and the intellectual challenges we are facing, the questions we ask are changing.  At first, some of us whined, "Why is this important?  Does it even matter?" but now, we are asking, "How does this affect our understanding of biblical inspiration?  How can this be incorporated into our ministry to college students?"  Please pray that our interns learn a deep appreciation and fuller understanding of the Bible through this class, and that it equips them to share the truth of God with students they meet on campus.

Christians (along with Jews) have long been referred to as "people of the book."  It is because of that book, the Bible, that our faith has endured and been passed down through generations.  That book is a collection of letters, poems, visions, and stories that tell the broader story of God's interaction with His people.  That book offers up simple truths that can be easily digested and understood by a casual reader, but it also contains deep mysteries that demand careful interpretation and study.  I believe that to truly live up to our title of people of the book, we must take the Bible seriously enough to study it and allow it to change our minds and our lives.  Reading an excerpt as a daily devotional may serve to remind the believer of the foundations which he has already been taught, but the casual reader will miss out on the rich complexity that demonstrates the sophistication and devotion of the original writers of scripture.  He who has ears to hear, let him hear.

I am excited this month to begin that type of study with a new friend, Wei.  She was born in China and moved here to the US in January for graduate studies in Marketing.  A Christian family opened their home to her upon her arrival and hosted her until she found an apartment and got settled in to her new life.  From them and other Christians they introduced her to, she learned that there is a God who loves her and a Jesus who wants to save her.  Now, I have the honor of studying the Bible with Wei and showing her more about who that Jesus really is.  During our first meeting, we looked over the table of contents in her Bible, and I told her about all the different types of literature there and the long history found within those pages.  She thanked me and said that she was very grateful to have someone to help her, because she had tried to read the Bible on her own but struggled to make sense of what she was reading.  Please pray for Wei as I continue to meet with her and encourage her to follow Jesus.

I want to thank each of you who prays for me or for our Focus students, and each of you who donates regularly to support our staff.  You are a blessing from God.  In the words of Paul to the Philippians, "I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus."