Watch What Your Ministry Is Up To: Winter Confrence 2011

Want to know what your ministry is up to? 

We are here with 16 students from SF State, and 784 other students, for Winter Conference 2011. A 5 day conference in San Diego, CA where we hope students from all over the Pacific Southwest will hear from the Lord and be charged and changed to effect both their campus and the people around them their entire lives with the good news that is Jesus Christ.

You can watch too! There will be some great speakers, here is the info.

San Diego Winter Conference Live Stream 
Watch Live: Go to... then click on Watch Live! Or watch via Facebook...

Also, please be praying that the Lord would work in the lives of our 16 students. Specifically, pray Ally decides follow Christ this and that Jie would experience and be rooted firmly in God's truth and love. 

Read more

Bay Area New Staff

Bay Area New Staff Development Day at Berkeley.
Read more


Hey lovely people! As I was praying today for some students, I thought it would be awesome to have you praying for them as well.

Chris: A student I know on campus who is searching for spiritual truth. Right now he believes all salvation and peace comes from within. Pray his eyes are opened to the fact he can't save himself and that he would see the need for Christ the true Savior and experience His love.

Ally: She is so close to giving her life to Christ. Right now she is counting the costs of a life surrendered to him, a sign I see that the Lord truly is calling her. Pray that the Holy Spirit leads her to take that step of faith.

Sarah: Sarah does know the Lord but is having a hard time feeling like she belongs w/in the community of the church. Pray against feelings of guilt and condemnation and freedom from past and present sin.

Ephesians 20-21
Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.

PS: Pics of our students at a recent prayer night

Read more

The Strange Story of Judah and Tamar

"Therefore he was named Perez."

       The story of Judah and Tamar is a strange one which interrupts the Joseph narrative that ends the book of Genesis.  As I (Josh) read through it initially it seemed like a weird and frankly gross inconsequential story with no bearing on the rest of the Genesis or Biblical narrative, save perhaps to highlight the general despicableness of Judah (who one chapter before wanted to kill his brother) compared to the righteousness of Joseph (as the reader sees in the following chapter and the story with Potapher's wife).  But as I re-read it alongside a commentary to gain more context the ending of the story suddenly became very significant to the rest of the Biblical narrative.  Why?  Because the younger of Tamar's twins (conceived from Judah) is Perez from whom comes the royal line of David and therefore Jesus.

       Why is this significant and why does it resonate with me personally?  It can be very easy to view Jesus with rose-colored glasses, to think of him floating around being perfectly nice to everyone and generally happy-go-lucky all the time.  Don't get me wrong, I think Jesus was happy and joyful, deeply so, but this false picture ignores the dirtiness of the world Jesus walked in and the ugliness of a sin-ravaged earth.  What I love about the story of Judah and Tamar is precisely the ugliness present. 

       The language is blunt and brutal.  Tamar, not a descendent of Abraham (and therefore not part of God's chosen people) is humiliated, mistreated, abused and nearly killed unjustly.  She is a childless widow with nothing, no power, no prospects save a vague promise from her father-in-law Judah to give his youngest son Shelah to her in marraige when he is old enough.  And yet her actions (pretending to be a prostitute and tricking her scum-bag father-in-law into sleeping with her and getting her pregnant) are those of a smart, keen, desperate and confident woman.  The passage in no way condemns any of her actions, in fact she is the righteous, just foil to Judah's corruption.  Judah is not only corrupt and contemptible (he does not keep his word to allow Shelah to marry Tamar when he is of age) and generally despicable (picking up a roadside prostitute after his wife just died) but is also cruel (he wants to burn Tamar alive when he finds out she is pregnant from prostituting herself when the usual punishment would have been death by stoning). 
       Yet this is the man through whom God brings King David and eventually Jesus?  I'll be honest, I weirdly love that.  Often I think of Jesus as a perfect superhero-like foil to all the brokenness, corruption, evil and death in the world who had no choice BUT to play the part of superhero, a man so earnest even Captain America rolls his eyes.  But Jesus' very bloodline bears the scars of sin and uncleanliness.  Of the four women in Matthew's genealogy (Tamar, Rahab, Ruth and Bathsheba not including Mary), two are prostitutes (Tamar and Rahab) and all are foreigners, 'unclean' non-chosen people.  One scholar even beautifully noted all four women conceive by questionable means just like Jesus mother, Mary.  Even through his birth God was identifying Jesus with the lowest of low, the broken, defenseless, the foreigner, alien and powerless.  As Dr. Ray Bakke said "He is the savior who came into the world and deliberately choreographed into his own blood stream the scandalous people that Judaism was leaving outside and wanted nothing to do with".  Jesus' lineage both reflects the ugliness of this fallen world and the heart of God for such a world which makes his life, death and resurrection all the more significant. 

       He did have a choice and chose to obey God the Father perfectly, to go to the cross and embrace the consequence of sin like those his ancestors committed to redeem a dark, twisted world where women are threatened with unjust death and mistreated, where incest happens, where people break promises, where father's watch their sons die and where racism condemns people because of the community (or country) they are born into.  Jesus dies and redeemes a world like that, a world he knew and experienced, a world his very blood was evidence of both as he was born and as it poured out in death.  Which is why I love the ugliness of this passage, because it reminds me justice has been done, there is an answer now for such pain and devastation.  Jesus.
Read more

September September

Hello friends!  I realize it has been a while since I have written an update about our life on this little corner of the internet and since I finally have an hour open on a weekday I was impelled to say hello and let you into our busy world.

Firstly, God has been moving in wonderful ways at San Francisco State.  Despite our smaller team this year, the ministry continues to grow with new students entering the community each week.  Our student leadership team we have written about in the past has been incredible, pouring themselves out to other students, giving of their time and energy in the first month of school.  Jesus has been capturing the hearts of students who are excited and motivated to be his representatives at SFSU.  We as a staff team have been doing our best to allow the Holy Spirit to lead the ministry exactly where He wants us to be, to follow Jesus’ vision for the campus, not our own.  As such, we have been trying to launch and pioneer some new ministries and build relationships with different groups and communities on campus.  We will update everyone with more information in the future but for now please pray that we can launch a Destino ministry this semester for Hispanic students and for Alex to continue to build friendships and bridges with the LGBT community.

Secondly, I like being real with you all and want you as our friends and supporters to be with us in the good and the hard periods in ministry.  So, I must tell you in full disclosure that this past week was really hard for me personally to engage well in ministry.  I think it was a combination of pushing hard at the beginning of the school year, speaking at our first two weekly meetings, constantly moving from one meeting to the next, spiritual attack, being in the city for a month straight, and a constant barrage of fog and gloomy weather (2 weeks straight until this past weekend) but I was emotionally drained which resulted in me feeling fairly selfish and joyless.  It probably played out in my relationship with Alex more than anyone else but it was a tough reality to be faced with: that when I am spent and don’t rely on Jesus I am a selfish jerk, which when you think about it is the EXACT opposite of who Jesus is.

Thirdly, in a weird way, as I reflect on last week I am super thankful.  It allowed me to take a look inward and realize how much I can’t rely on my own strength and gifts in ministry.  It also reminded me of the joy a relationship with Christ brings, a joy made so much sweeter when you don’t experience it for a stretch.  The past few days have been wonderful, sunny, joy filled and full of Jesus.  Please continue to pray for both Alex and myself to be totally reliant on Him as our ministry continues to expand.  We want to give of ourselves totally but also lay the ministry at the feet of God knowing it is HIS to do what He wants with.

Fourthly, one of the things that hit me this weekend was the joy of knowing we have people who love and care praying for us, supporting us, being in this ministry with us.  Alex and I are so so thankful for all of you and I’m not sure if we’ve been vocal enough about it.  Without you we could not be here in San Francisco trying to trust God for big things.  Without you, quite frankly, we would not have the privilege of serving God here in the city.  So thank you.  We love you, we care deeply about you, we want to pray for you!  So please let us know how, shoot us an email or give us a ring.

Josh and Alex
Read more

Our First Week on Campus Tabling

Read more

The School Year Has Begun!

Just finished tabling for the first week of school! Gave out a ton of free donuts and coffee and got into a lot of good convos with excited and bustling students. Thanks for all your prayers. Keep em' coming! We will need them as we are trying to get a room for our weekly meeting, setting up new small group bible studies and pursuing new ventures in the Latino, Asian American and African American Communities.
Love you all!

*Not an SF State student. But he will do since I keep forgetting my camera! I promise I'm going to try and take more pics this year!
Read more

Back In The City, Back In The Fog

This morning I woke up, grabbed my Bible and journal and sat down at my desk to read, which is where I am writing to you now. I can not help but reflect on how today is another gloomy day. Nothing puts me in a somber mood quicker than waking up to a grey sky. Especially after spending a summer in LA and Colorado full of blissful sunny skies.

Somberness sometimes turns into a disagreeable mood, and a disagreeable mood sometime turns into depression all because the fog has a strange ability to slowly drain the hope out of me. This all sounds silly huh? Especially since I can drive 15 minutes to another part of the city and bask in all the UV I want. But that's just it, and that's just what hit me today.

I said to myself this morning, after taking in all the grayness my living room window let in, "Yes, but the sun is still shining." It started with the realization that the sun was still shining in other parts of the city, in other parts of the nation and even in other parts of the world, but then my realization went deeper. The sun is still shining here. In the Outer Richmond district of San Francisco, here at my house. The fog is merely shallow and fleeting. Yes it's here now, but it comes and goes and is powerless against wether the sun shines or not. For the sun will always shine whether I can see it or not. In fact, if it didn't I could not move or see at all and I would not live in a way that hopes to see it's rays. This thought filled me with a smidgen of joy.

For the Son always shines despite the fleeting reality of fog.

-A. Waidley
Read more

The Name Change

     By now you may have already heard but a few nights ago at the National Staff Conference in Fort Collins, Campus Crusade for Christ officially changed its name to Cru after 60 years.  While the news may or may not come as a shock to you, there are a lot of opinions flying around about the name change right now and I wanted to let you, our friends, family and supporters know the heart behind it.  Personally I believe the name change is a great thing and despite what people/media/blogs/whoever might tell you, a name change does NOTHING to change the mission and vision of our organization.  We are as committed as ever to seeing college students around the globe come to know Jesus and figure out what it means to walk with Him.

     I remember the first week I was on campus at San Francisco State as an intern 3 years ago (wow, has it been that long?), the team and I were tabling at the beginning of the semester with a sign that said in big letters “City Cru” and in much smaller letters “Campus Crusade for Christ at SFSU”.  Within an hour I remember seeing more than a few people stop to read our sign, see the word ‘crusade’ and give a head shake of disgust and walk away.  It all culminated when a student actually stopped, read the sign, looked at us and yelled, “Crusade?  That’s pretty f-ed up”.  I can remember sharing with people on campus, trying to get into spiritual conversations to get to know a person and introduce Jesus to them.  When our name came up, there were almost physical reactions of walls being put up and conversations would end.

     The reality of Campus Crusade for Christ is our mission, hope and vision is for college students to have an opportunity to know the truth, love, mercy, grace, and life of Jesus Christ.  We desire to build relationships with college students from every walk of life and relationships are built through conversations.  In a city like San Francisco the simple fact is a word like 'crusade' is a barrier to the gospel of Jesus because it almost immediately causes people to a) associate you and the organization with THE crusades b) puts both you AND the person you are trying to get to know on the defensive which c) causes the person not to trust you and to want to pull away from the conversation.

     One of my friends (ok, one of my bosses) who is finishing up his doctorate at Fuller in Christian Ethics in the public sphere said something super insightful to a group of us recently.  What he said was if you look at the history of the church over the past 2000 years around the world and even in America until the early 1900's, what has characterized it especially in times of growth and revival is that Christianity was a 'first word' movement.  Christians were concerned with walking with Jesus and meeting the needs of the communities around them, healing the broken, feeding the hungry, living a lifestyle of sacrifice and grace and all the while sharing the love of Jesus in word and deed.  But in the past 100 years the church in America has shifted to become a 'last word' movement.  He pointed out that today it seems like Christianity in our country is more concerned with making America a 'Christian nation' by legislating it into our laws and trying to 'reclaim' the culture than it is with actually walking with Jesus.  I suspect a lot of the push back against the name has more to do with this 'last word' Christianity than actual concern for the spreading of the Kingdom of God, as if changing our name means we've 'lost' some sort of cultural battle.  The name change was the result of years of prayer with the leadership of Crusade seeking the Lord faithfully and humbly through a long process.  It wasn’t an arbitrary change for the sake of political correctness but a change meant to further the Kingdom of God and spread the name of Jesus.
     The reason Alex and I joined staff with Campus Crusade in the first place wasn't to make some sort of political point, or to bash culture or to push certain social beliefs on people but to share the incredible true life Jesus offers to all; I've said it many times, but we were made to follow Jesus, we find our true purpose when we surrender our lives to Him and everything else, every issue, every debate, every concern, every cause pales in comparison to the question of where you stand with Him.

     Below are a few links I think would be really helpful for you to read if you are interested in hearing a bit more about how the leadership of Campus Crusade for Christ prayed through and finally decided upon Cru.  As Alex and I have heard from the leadership, what has remained completely clear throughout has been the humility and openness they have demonstrated.  This was not an arbitrary name change, nor was it a change to be more “politically correct”.  Bottom line, it was a change made to remove barriers to people hearing the truth and true life found in Jesus.

Links To Read:

1)  The first link is the official Cru page.  It has many answers to the most frequently asked questions concerning the name change.  Please, please read the content here before anything else:

2)  The second link is a blog from a former Campus Crusade for Christ staff member against the name change, who, after seeing how Steve Sellers and other CCC staff leaders humbly presented it, had some reflections:

3)  The final link is an article on the name change from written by a Sojourners staff member.  It is good:

Read more

14 Lines on the Proverbs and Other Meanderings

Alex with some of her Bible study girls.

     Well the school year is finally coming to a close here at San Francisco State.  As I type this Alex and I are on our way to debriefing meetings to celebrate the year and talk through with our staff team what went well, what didn't and shaping our fall semester.
     It goes without saying Alex and I are so thankful to all our friends and supporters for your prayers and love, without you this ministry wouldn't be possible.  We will share stories with you all in the coming weeks; in the meantime, here are some meanderings from the past couple weeks.

- Alex and I both were able to end the school year well.  This was a huge answer to prayer.  Our relationships and bible studies we lead all ended in encouraging fashion.
- I have been reading through the Proverbs lately and am struck by how often they point to Jesus.
- With the Easter season a couple weeks behind us, I've realized how easy it is/how our culture tends to focus on the Cross and not give as much attention to the Resurrection.  But the early Church in Acts had it switched, they preached the Resurrection heavily.  "We are Easter people living in a Good Friday world" was a refrain I heard and loved this Lent and I hope to have a deeper grasp on what it exactly means to live my life in light of Easter and the crazy, new, abundant life God offers, not simply the Cross (which is glorious of course, please don't misunderstand me).
- Switching gears, the Lakers losing was shocking but looking back on the season, not unexplainable.  I hope they trade Bynum; Kobe, Gasol and Odom should be fine.
- Parks and Rec continues to be the best show on television in this marriage's humble opinion and if you don't watch it you need too.

14 Lines On the Proverbs:
Refresh my bones, oh Lord, and heal my flesh
Fill my cup and awake my soul from dreams,
from delusions of self-sufficiency
for I will always seem wise in my eyes.

You hate a proud heart, my wisdom is fraud,
a shallow imitation of your depths,
cute sayings, sugar coated destruction
sweet music playing as the ship goes down.

But your wisdom is true life abundant,
your wisdom was bought at a precious price;
it led you to your death, broken and shamed,
it led to triumph, walking with the dawn
God forever altered, beauty reformed,
the door re-opened to the way it was.
Read more

In the Garden

Death defeated, afraid but filled with Joy,
a simple word, my name in a garden,
and at once, true love leads me to worship;
while whispers cast doubt on victory thought final.

Evil trembles at the thought of new hope,
Dawn breaks with new creation on its wings.
Am I the first to see Him, to touch Him
or has He been laughing in the garden awhile?
Read more

Meanderings (the last 10 days)

photo by Anthony Lam
Meanderings -
It was my birthday this past Monday (the 11th) and like any good American, I worked all day.  It really was a good day; Alex had already thrown me a small British themed birthday party (complete with a banner featuring: Harry Potter, the Queen, a shirtless David Beckham, Tolkien and N.T. Wright) on Saturday so I was able to focus on the talk I was giving at our weekly meeting.  Studying for the talk (on the spiritual disciplines and prayer in particular) really convinced me of how often I relegate (a wonderful soccer term) prayer to the garbage time of my day instead of making it central.  And when it comes down to it, the reason I don't pray enough is a) I don't believe Jesus will be faithful to hear and answer my prayers or b) I am lazy and value my own comfort (see: sleep) over the life-giving presence of God...when I put it like that it makes me realize how insane it sounds.  Jesus is entirely and perfectly faithful and has proven himself to be so time after time in my life and forgoing being in the presence of the Almighty because I would rather sleep or read is so...selfish.  

Random thoughts:
- Well sitting in a coffee shop nodding my head to a Train song, it finally hit me.  At 25, I have officially hit middle-age...right?  Isn't 25 the age I just give up and go Volvo shopping and get really into CSI: Miami? 
- I heard recently The Magician's Nephew is going to be the next movie in the terrible Chronicles of Narnia movie series.  Early reports are C.S. Lewis continues to roll over in his grave.
- Blake Griffin's rookie season was the most spectacular regular season I remember a player having.
- Reason #1002 I love my wife: she also loves Norm Macdonald (p.s. his new weekly Sports Show Tuesdays at 10:30 on Comedy Central is the new best show on tv)

Prayer Requests:
- first of all, a praise: the student we wrote about in our last prayer letter that Alex met has accepted Christ!  So rad.
- Alex and I have been feeling pretty tired this week.  Pray for continued reliance on Jesus, not our own power and energy.  We want to finish the school year well, not just fade away into the summer.
- Pray for our students to really embrace prayer and make it central in their lives.  

As always, we love you all so much and are so blessed to have you be a part of our ministry.
Read more

Written Prayer

I (Josh) process through written prayer sometimes.  Here is one such prayer written 04/06/11 on campus at SFSU, revised 04/13/11 in the quiet of my home

Dear Lord,
Help me to know how to listen and how to love.  Help me to care, to deeply feel the agony of sin, to deeply hate the evil in this world, to deeply hope for signs of redemption, to deeply long for wrongs to be righted, to deeply live out a life of mercy and to deeply trust in you alone.  Guide me Holy Spirit, direct me, lead me, quiet me, silence me, animate me with your purposes and power.  Remind me of the Cross, the ultimate shelter, the ultimate stronghold, truest love manifest, total redemption begun.
Read more

Meanderings: March 28th - April 2

picture by Anthony Lam (one of our interns)

The past 6 weeks have flown by…I’ve mentioned as much in our last prayer letter.  Alex and I have been busy adjusting to life, to the ministry, to the cycles of momentum that exists at every college campus and to being married co-workers in San Francisco.  It has been a wonderful and challenging period.  However, as great as it has been, I am a bit disappointed in myself.  Why?  Well, simply put, in my moments of free time and rest, keeping this blog updated is far from my mind.  I love to write, I love blogging here and I love our supporters to be up to date with what is going on in our lives on a weekly basis…but I have been terrible at keeping this blog up to date.  So I wanted to apologize to everyone who reads the San Francisco Call regularly.  Starting this week I am going to schedule time each week to post happenings, prayer requests and stories from the past week.

This week was spring break for SFSU and City College, which means Alex and I were not on campus.  To be honest, the break came at just the right time for me, I was definitely beginning to feel the fatigue of 6 weeks straight of ministry with hardly a moment to rest.  This week has been a good time of reflection and refreshment, a time for Alex and me to look inward and listen to the Holy Spirit.  I have been convicted recently of how easily I am distracted by lesser things and often put off having deep time with the Lord in order to read a book or look at sports scores or different blogs.  This week has allowed me to spend deep time with Jesus in prayer and the Word and already I feel renewed and ready to tackle the remaining 5 weeks of the school year.

Random thoughts:
-  Alex and I are going to be joining an indoor soccer team which will be fun and a great way to burn off some pent up energy on Sunday evenings, so that should be fun.
-  The Lord has already answered one of our major prayer moving up here, namely to have great community and friends.  If you’re reading this, you know who you are, but we really do thank Jesus daily for the amazing relationships we have already established here in SF.
- As of this morning (Saturday), the Dodgers are undefeated at the expense of the Giants and the Lakers are rolling.  As a LA sports fan in enemy territory, I am stoked :)

Prayer requests:
- One of our student’s father passed away suddenly last weekend from a heart attack.  Please pray for the peace of Jesus to be upon him and his family and that the community of City Cru can come alongside him and love him well.
- We have taken some time this spring break to do some more support raising.  It is a continual process as staff and we would love to see the Lord bring in some new support.  God has provided for us in incredible ways and we have faith He will continue to do so.  Please pray for those who we are contacting to be open to the Lord’s promptings if He would have them join our team in whatever capacity.
- Pray for Alex and me to have hearts and spirits of continual thanksgiving for the way God has provided for us and our ministry already.
- We have a couple outreaches coming up but this week specifically we are going to be partnering with other clubs on campus to raise money for the cause of orphans around the world.  Our intern Matt has started the Orphan Scholarship Fund to raise money for orphans to go to college.  To read more about the Orphan Scholarship Fund check out the facebook group and the article below:  

Please pray for God to open up doors for City Cru to show his love for both orphans and the campus of SFSU and that we would be able to raise the money.  Also pray for City Cru to make connections with students and other clubs and for relationships to be built.

Thanks so much for your thoughts, support and prayers.  We love you all so much and remember to check back regularly for updates and musings, I promise I will be more diligent in updating the blog.  Again, we love you!
Read more

Visions of San Francisco

Inside the ferry building.
Read more

A Strangely Insightful Circus

     In a lot of ways the whole circus surrounding the release of the new Rob Bell book on Hell has acted as a strange and compelling fun house mirror, held up to the current American Evangelical landscape.  It has revealed some of the worrying tendencies in certain camps while confusing many an evangelical…like myself.  The crazy thing is I don’t think it’s a bad thing.  In a weird way I’m thankful for the internet exploding into insanity in the past couple weeks; between the whole Hell vs. Universalism debate and Charlie Sheen basically embracing the fact he is an F-18 bro (aka, he’s a lunatic) it’s given me a lot to think about.

     On the one hand, there is the Rob Bell camp which I suppose could best be described as progressive evangelicalism (my words).  Living now in San Francisco I can somewhat identify with this group.  I don’t think ‘progressive’ is a bad word no matter how often Glenn Beck writes it on a chalkboard, but I do think many progressive evangelicals can wear it like a badge of honor.  Bell seems to take pride in the fact he is less condemning and more understanding than other Christian teachers.  I would say he is more artist than philosopher/theologian, but either way he seems very…how can I put this nicely…sure of himself?  Another way to say it would be arrogant, even dismissive of the ‘close-minded’ conservatives who hold so tightly to traditional Christian beliefs without questioning them…at least that’s how he seems to this casual observer.  I enjoy some of his Nooma videos and liked the book Velvet Elvis and even have enjoyed and learned from a few of his sermons but he just seems very…prideful to me.  The book description from HarperCollins on his new book on heaven and hell, Love Wins, simply solidifies my suspicions: “An electrifying, unconventional pastor whom Time magazine calls “a singular rock star in the church world,” Rob Bell is the most vibrant, central religious leader of the millennial generation.”
     Setting aside for a moment the desire to sell books and the probability Rob Bell didn’t write that himself, how in the world can a pastor allow themselves to be described in such a ridiculous and worshipful way and NOT do anything to change it?  If a pastor is supposed to lead their congregation by the way they  live life, how could he not simply laugh at such an absurd description and tell the publishers, ‘look guys, I’m flattered, but how’s about toning down the praise, cause right now it makes me look like an arrogant jerk who thinks WAY to highly of himself’.  This to me is the FAR more worrying trend in Evangelicalism at the moment: how prideful Christian leaders come across.  Their way of thinking is the best way, they are so insightful, other people who disagree with them just don’t get it, look at how popular they are and how many books they’ve sold, ect.  And coupled with this sense of pride is a lack of awareness (best case scenario) or a lack of caring about it (worst case scenario).

     The sad thing is our culture longs for the Christian ‘rock-star’.  We’ve been conditioned by our society to turn a person into an idol because it’s easier to cope with an idol than with Jesus.  It’s easier to latch onto your favorite writer/theologian/pastor/teacher and follow everything they do than it is to latch fully onto Jesus.  But no matter how many times Mark Driscoll challenges you to not be a stupid idiot, or N.T. Wright challenges you to think of heaven as a renewed physical earth and not a place of disembodies souls, those challenges PALE in comparison to the challenges of Jesus, starting simply with love God and love others.  That is too hard!  And yet the Bible teaches it is the commands and life of Jesus we are supposed to follow, not our favorite speaker.  So no matter what Rob Bell says about heaven or hell, no matter how ‘electrifying’ he is, his insight and opinion isn’t the final word…then again neither is the other side’s.

     Which bring us to the other tent in this circus, the tent which in many ways started this whole fiasco to begin with.  The New Reformed tent.  It’s a pretty big and influential tent (not to mention pretty male and white) with a lot going for it.  It is just as media savvy as Rob Bell, just as in touch with the culture and unfortunately, just as aware of its popularity and power. 

     First things first: what troubles me most about the way many leaders and pastors in this camp rushed to judgment on a book they have never read isn’t the fact they are attempting to toss him outside the Christian community, or the fact they assume they have the power to kick someone out of the Christian community, or the fact they are labeling Rob Bell a heretic without having read his book, it’s the obvious lack of LOVE they have shown in this whole situation.
Alex, my lovely wife, said it best, “Why is their first reaction to kick Rob Bell out of the Christian community via the internet and NOT to go to him and try to love him, or at least talk to him?”  The dismissiveness of many very influential leaders of Rob Bell is troubling to say the least.  It’s almost as if they were LOOKING for a reason to dismiss him, which honestly, maybe they were.  Maybe they were tired of answering questions about Velvet Elvis or of hearing about Rob Bell doing speaking engagements with the Dali Llama (I know I was) and this was the final straw.  Maybe they were just sick of such a widely read pastor asking questions they deemed to be dangerous or giving answers they deemed to be questionable.  Whatever the case, their first actions, articles and tweets were reactionary, angry, dismissive and unreasonable given the fact they hadn’t read more than the chapter or two of the book the publisher sent out early.  More over there was an underlying theme of fear.  Fear of Christians wrestling with big issues like what the Bible says about hell and how to best understand it, fear of people not being content just to believe in hell because its always been taught, fear of (and this is just my opinion) losing their own power and influence.  As someone who has thought about hell a lot recently I can honestly say I believe there is a hell and that its separation from Jesus and the worst possible place humanity can be…but does that mean I angrily dismiss anyone I know for merely asking a question about how hell is portrayed in the Bible and label them a heretic?  It seems intellectually dishonest and thoroughly UN-Biblical and unloving to attack someone for asking a question, no matter how scary you think the implications of the question is.

     The bigger issue which this whole circus has raised and not many people seem to be acknowledging, is pride.  An astonishing lack of humility has been show by both sides in this argument!  On the one hand there is Rob Bell and the ‘progressives’ who are quick to label more ‘conservative’ Christians as close minded and bigoted, not to mention the already touched on absurdity of Rob Bell being okay with being described as a “rock star”.  On the other hand you have the New Reformers who are so convinced their system is the right system and their theology is the right theology they rush to excommunicate a fellow brother in Christ instead of reaching out to him in love when they feel threatened…not to mention the fact they are excoriating the said brother in Jesus based on a book description, not the actual book itself!  If you ask me, it is pretty presumptuous to call someone a heretic based on a book description, no matter how egomaniacal the book description is.  As I mentioned earlier, I am weirdly thankful for this whole circus because its made very clear the problems which explode when pride is left unchecked…on both sides.

     My reason for writing this post is to challenge myself to take a good hard look at the areas in my life where pride reigns (not to mention the ways in which I can overvalue the opinions of pastors/teachers I respect instead of thinking for myself).  I should go into meetings with students and City Cru events with fear and trembling, not self-assured confidence, knowing the dangers and delusions of pride are often impossible to detect until something draws them out publicly…like a book description from an author I don’t particularly agree with on an issue I think I have the end-all answer to.  My hope and wish is for all the Christian leaders involved to take a deep breath and apologize for believing their own hype, rushing to judgment or at the very least for acting out in a way soaked in self-trust and anger instead of Jesus.  I know I am as guilty as anyone of being seduced by the allure of pride, vanity and esteem so I hope I don’t sound holier than thou.  Its is often easy to see the pride of others and point it out while being blinded to my own vanity.  We are all sinners who are very imperfect but are loved infinitely by a God who is very perfect indeed.  And that, at least, is an eternally comforting thought.
Read more

Ministry, Individualism and the Image of God: What Fleet Foxes Made Me Think

“I was raised up believer I was somehow unique.  Like a snowflake, distinct among snowflakes, unique in each way you can see. And now after some thinking, I’d say I’d rather be, a functioning cog in some great machinery, serving something beyond me.”~ Helplessness Blues– Fleet Foxes

I love the opening verse of this song by Fleet Foxes (hipster alert!).  I think it perfectly captures the place many of today’s college students are at.  Look, I love America the way Ron Swanson loves breakfast buffets, but certain aspects of our culture drive me crazy.  Take for instance, the virtue of individualism.  In some respects, the whole notion each one of us is unique is very Biblical and true.  God knows each of us intimately and has created us in a distinct way.  He knows the number of hairs on our head, ect, ect.  I get that, I believe that.  But unfortunately, today’s culture takes that truth and runs with it and we are taught from a young age it is our own individual existence which is most important.  Essentially we are told we are each the center of our own universes.

What I have seen both when I was in college and here in SF among students is a cultural shift away from the completely “me” centered existence to the idea, however fuzzy or vague, that actually we are meant to be in community with others and to live for something bigger than ourselves.  This is what college students are searching for, a greater purpose existing outside of themselves. 
The next line in the song quoted above is “But I don’t, I don’t know what that will be.  I’ll get back to you someday soon you will see.”  This longing to be a part of something bigger than one’s self is, I think, a reflection of the image of God in each one of us.  The idea of being made in the image of God goes far beyond some quasi-spiritual soul but means something far deeper and more relational.  In Genesis we see Adam and Eve made ‘in the image of God’ and they reflect it in 4 distinct relationships (full disclosure: I am stealing these 4 relationships from a Scot Mcknight talk on being made in God’s image):  1)  their relationship with God  2)  their relationship with each other  3)  their relationship with themselves  4)  their relationship with Creation.  When they sinned, it wasn’t just their relationship with God which was broken, it was all four. 

Part of what it means to surrender yourself to Jesus is, of course, our relationship to God is reconciled by the Cross of Christ but so should our relationships with others, ourselves and the world/creation.  Jesus being the center, changes the way we relate to all 4.  Of course it takes time and the Holy Spirit working within us for those relationships to heal but the fact remains we are ‘new creations’ and as new creations those relationships should now revolve around Jesus.
For many of today’s college students, constant doses of “me” centered thinking from parents, culture and authority has stirred up something inside them, a mysterious sense that perhaps this self-centered individualism is not the way we were made to live.  After all, what has that sort of worldview gotten our parents generation?  Sure, money, knowledge and power but also an obvious selfishness and consumerist mentality which sees the world and everything in it, from sex to marriage to friendship to material things, even love as a commodity that it their right.  This mentality has even lodged itself into the Western church and our view of God himself.  ‘What can God give me?’  ‘What can Jesus do for you’?

           Today’s college students (and of course I’m speaking in generalities) are beginning to realize what Jesus said 2000 years ago, if “they lose their life, they will find it’.  We are made and designed to live for something outside ourselves.  Part of our job as staff and as followers of Jesus in general is to come alongside students and affirm their sneaking suspicions they are not the center of the universe and were created to be ‘a functioning cog’ in something much larger, the Kingdom of God.  That is the challenge of college ministry, to present the truth that it is in Jesus and His story we find our true selves.  Of course there are a multitude of competing worldviews fighting for student’s minds and hearts, worldviews which would even affirm that living self-centeredly is not how we were made to live.  But ultimately without Jesus, most of those worldviews are all about you in the end: how good you are; how loving and generous you are; how just you are; and they eventually lead a person to worship themselves and their own goodness/morality.

It is our job as Spirit-led, holistic disciples of Christ to model a Jesus centered life, to model reconciliation in all of our relationships, to reflect what it means to truly be made in the image of God.  It is a tall order indeed, one which would be impossible without Jesus giving us the Holy Spirit to guide and sustain us.  So the question is, am I reflecting Jesus and showing the world what it means to be made in the image of God?  Are we actually living for something much grander than ourselves or using Jesus to serve our own purposes?  Chances are all of us reflect God’s image well in some areas of our lives and poorly in other areas.  The reality remains, without more of Jesus and  the Holy Spirit and way less of us it will always be an uphill battle.  But thankfully we serve and love a God who never forsakes us, who is infinitely patient with us, and uses even our mistakes for His glory.  
Read more

Visions of San Francisco

The view from the top of our hill

Read more

Apartment tour

See the apartment the Lord has blessed us with!

Read more

Visions of San Francisco

Today is the first post of many that will fall under our new blog feature... Visions of San Francisco. Basically, I will posting pics of things we see and experience every day. The idea is to give you a glimpse into the city we love and those who live in it as we go about ministry and life. Enjoy!

First up, our house! Isn't it stylin'? We live on the bottom floor in a spacious (for SF anyways) studio that feels like home already.
Read more

Our First Weeks In San Francisco

Finally, a moment to sit down and write! The past two weeks have been insanely busy (in a good way J). Alex and I, as you may remember from our last prayer letter, moved up to San Francisco two weeks ago and have been running around like crazy since then, adjusting to life, making our apartment feel like home, planning the semester with the rest of the City Cru staff team, meeting the students of SFSU and City Cru and just being in San Francisco. To say it has been hectic is an understatement. So here is a quick rundown of some highlights:

1) Moving in – I hate moving…it ruins your back, you get cuts and bruises all over your hands, you are dusty and sweaty all day and by the time bed rolls around you are almost too tired to move. This was us for 5 straight days the first week we were up here. We spend those days painting, unpacking, cleaning, putting Ikea furniture together, painting some more, eating and finally sleeping. Of course the good thing with moving is once you finish and your place feels like home there is a sense of accomplishment and joy that comes at the completion of project you have poured yourself into. Our place truly is OUR place now…and its all thanks to Alex’s interior design skills and my blind obedience to do whatever she told me to do ;)

2) SFSU – Monday morning was spent tabling on the San Francisco State campus, passing out free donuts and fair-trade coffee and connecting with students who came up to our table. Alex and I got to meet a good amount of students who are involved with our ministry and have some great spiritual conversations with those who came up to the table grab a donut and find out more about City Cru.

3) Staff Life – Meeting from 9-5 Tuesday thru Friday. So many meetings! Luckily our team (there are 8 of us) are awesome and our directors Chris and Christine were able to guide us as we planned a lot of the semester for our ministry. That includes outreaches, what we want students to learn about Jesus through our small group bible studies, how to incorporate and model a life and ministry centered on prayer to students, figuring out how to live out our faith through partnering with organizations who care for the poor and marginalized in the city, and a whole host of other things. They were exhausting days but necessary and good.

Alex and I are so excited to be here doing the work Jesus has called us into and are continually humbled and blessed by all of your prayers, support and friendship. We can’t wait to see what God does on the college campuses in San Francisco and we will be sure to keep you updated via this blog as often as we can. In the meantime, sorry for such a long post, thank you for your prayers and please continue to pray that Jesus captures the hearts of every student in San Francisco!!!
Read more

First Day Tomorrow!

Tomorrow we start our first day on the SF State Campus with the students, and I kinda feel like I did before the first day of elementary school... a little nervous, excited to see old friends and meet new people, scared I won't be able to find where I am supposed to be and.... what should I wear!? JK, on the last one :)

Basically, we will be tabling in the main area of campus and trying to get the word out about City Cru to get students interested in coming to our weekly meetings, studies, etc./, which is really the first step, besides prayer, of some coming to know the Lord, awareness that there are people here who love Jesus and an opportunity for them to do the same.

So please keep us and the students in your prayers as we begin this new semester.

Romans 10:14
How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard?
Read more

We are on our way!

Published with Blogger-droid v1.6.5
Read more

San Diego Winter Conference 2010 images

A short 30 second video with some images of SFSU City Cru students and staff from this year's Winter Conference.

Read more