What God’s Been Teaching Us

   One of my friends has been deeply studying the Jewish roots of the Bible.  I applaud this while also recognizing potential danger, just as there is a danger in heavily engaging with any non-Christian community without remaining strongly connected to believers.  Non-messianic Jews today believe a lot of the same things that the Pharisees believed in Jesus’ time, the ones who rejected Him as God’s Messiah and handed Him to the Romans.  Studying the case for why we can believe that Jesus is the Messiah is an awesome and fascinating journey (this book is a good place to start). 

     One erroneous view many modern Jews take is to incorporate Jesus Himself as simply a “good rabbi” saying claims of His divinity were only added later on.  They (as well as many Muslims) say it was an invention of Paul and not of Jesus or His disciples.  Those accusations don’t account for all the times Jesus Himself claims to be God (Matthew 28:8-9, 19; Mark 2:1-12; 14:60-62; Luke 22:67-70; John 1:18; 4:25-26; 5:18; 8:22-24, 57-58; 10:33; 20:27-28) or the fact that the apostle Peter calls Paul’s writings equal with “the rest of Scripture” (2 Peter 3:15-16). 

     Lest they should say that these passages were corruptly added later, I point to the sheer volume of passages that would have to be changed, the fact that we have manuscripts that date back to less than 100 years after the authors, and a fact on which Christians, Jews, and Muslims agree: God would not allow corruption into His Word.

     You can go deeper into proofs of the resurrection with Dr. Gary Habermas.  As Tim Keller says, exploring your doubts is a great way to grow your faith and relationship with God.  Be sure to do it alongside trusted friends in the Church, though.  Don’t go it alone.

What God’s Been Teaching Us – Chronic Pain

   Some of you already know that Karen has been struggling with chronic pain for many years. We have been to so many doctors, and been prayed for and over by so many people. We’ve heard from both medical and spiritual experts that something more seemed to be going on than could be detected. We confessed sin, believed in God’s healing and love, rested in His peace, allowed his grace to be sufficient, and set our eyes on eternity ahead, but it still didn’t change the fact that Karen’s pain stood in the way of a lot of the life and ministry we wanted to pursue here on earth.

   Over the summer, at another seemingly dead-end doctor’s visit, our attention was drawn to a book on the display that promised a “cure for chronic pain without surgery or drugs,” which struck us as odd in an urgent care facility. We were encouraged to learn that the author, Dr. Brady, is a hospital MD, is a Christian, and had done rigorous research on how the body, mind, and spirit are connected (largely to pursue his own healing for years of mysterious chronic pain). Cautiously hopeful, we saw the book was only $2 on kindle, so we gave it a try.

   The author quoted Sir William Osler who said, “the great physician treats the patient [not just the disease].” He also cites THE Great Physician, and refers to King David’s heavenly doctor appointment in Psalm 38, where he links his physical ailments (back ache, heart palpitations, weakness, and vision problems) to his emotions (his guilt had overwhelmed him). David’s solution is to dig out and express those buried feelings to the Lord and then entrust his life firmly into God’s hands: “Lord, I wait for you; you will answer, Lord my God.”

     The life stories and advice in this book resonate with us. Please pray for Karen, as she follows Dr Brady’s and others’ advice by diligently digging out the buried emotional sources of her physical pain and laying them out on the altar.

Getting Back Up Again

            Those of you who have followed us a long time may remember Eric from our mission to reach students in Los Angeles back in 2014. Even after he graduated from college, Eric and his family were a great blessing to the ministry, and to us personally when they hosted me on several trips to CA.

            During the pandemic, we lost touch. When we finally did get back in contact, Eric told me that his life had drifted far from the Lord. It started with spending more and more time with non-Christian friends and less and less with his church community. He gave me permission to share that a series of bad choices led to sin and eventually being arrested. All kinds of feelings flooded my heart, and lies of the enemy tried to steal the joy from all the good God had done through us together. But, God is not done with Eric (will never give up on Eric), and neither will I.

   When I spoke with him, Eric wasn’t sad but happy! He said that this was the wakeup call he needed. He was shocked to realize how dark his own heart is apart from the Holy Spirit’s lordship, and he wants to use this clarity to rebuild a path of walking with God and His community. Pray for Eric’s future!

Strength of an Olympian

  Everyone in Estonia knows the name Tiidrek Nurme because Tiidrek is fast… really fast. He was just awarded Estonia’s athlete of the year and is competing in the Olympics. Tiidrek loves to run but he also loves Jesus and represents his Savior to those around him. For him to get where he is today, he needed people around him to inspire him and help him train. One of our ministries, called Athletes in Action, focuses on pouring into athletes like Tiidrek, who in turn influence entire nations. Here’s what Tiidrek said about the impact Cru has on him:

   “My career as an athlete has not been some sort of individual project, but a team effort. A sports chaplain with Cru, named Nick, is a key team member. Nick’s presence in my training camps and competitions is one of the secrets to success. In the sports world we have lots of attention on results, records and achievements. It is easy to get lost in those things. Thanks to Nick, I am more focused on Jesus. He has a very sensitive heart to the Holy Spirit. That makes his faith in Jesus attractive! I am very thankful to Jesus to know Nick. I believe God brought our ways together!”

   Pray for athletes, and learn more about our ministry to them at AthletesInAction.org/Summer2021.

Thriving Over Summer

   We have been so proud of our son’s involvement with Cru Middle School this year.  Not only has he been motivated to attend—even giving up other fun activities so he wouldn’t miss it—but he’s been asked to emcee, lead the game, and even teach on occasion. 

     For the final meeting of the year, Arthur teamed up with 3 other students to teach on “how to thrive in your walk with God over the summer.”  They worked from this Cru Bible Study, and took turns teaching the different sections.  Their premise was that “we start to grow in our faith as we learn more of Jesus and his love for us. This study explores some of the ways that growth happens in our lives.”

     They studied Acts 2:42-47, which describes the first days of the Church (and which Karen and I have used to teach college students about what a Christian fellowship should be like).  They learned that the first Christians grew by listening to teachings about God and spending time eating and praying together.  They saw evidence of growth as the believers shared their faith and more and more people came to a saving faith in Jesus.

     They also taught the group how to study the Bible on your own, by sandwiching their reading with prayer, and journaling about the passage with 3 questions: 

1.) What does this say about God? 

2.) What does this say about me (or people in general)? 

3.) What can I do to apply what I’ve learned to my life?     

     Would you pray for Arthur (and students at every level) to stay strong with the Lord over the summer?

Discipling Jonathan

     For the last 9 months, I’ve had the honor of pouring some of the best training Cru has to offer into an energetic young intern named Jon.  It has been an incredible time of getting to know this gifted warrior for the Kingdom, and I have learned at least as much from the process as he has.

     Jon has served with Focus on the Family, Josh McDowell, and now is the personal assistant to the president of FamilyLife.  He’s open, kind, and passionate.  Like Karen, he’s never met a stranger, and people are quickly blessed by an encounter with him.  I myself have been blessed to help him grow deeper in how to share his faith, build up leaders for the gospel, and understand the journey on which God is guiding him.

     Jon has never been shy about sharing how God delivered him from a life of pornography, and has used that to help rescue many others.  We discussed his dream of working full time to fight for purity.  Now, God is blessing him with an opportunity to work for Pure Desire Ministries, the folks whose resources God used to transform his life.  He’s had an unbelievable journey serving with powerful ministries in Colorado Springs, Dallas, and Orlando; now he’s packing to cross the country again for Portland.  Please pray for Jon and those he’ll reach!

What God’s Been Teaching Us

     It seems like everywhere we look lately, the story of Abraham leaving the land of Haran is presented to us, starting in Genesis chapter 12.  There’s a lot we can pull out of it.  God calling us to step out in faith without having all the information is probably the biggest.  In this fallen world of brokenness and unpredictability, we are rarely given assurance about how things will play out.  Instead, our heavenly Father asks us to hang our hopes in His trustworthiness.  He has a good plan, and He WILL accomplish it. 

     That doesn’t mean God expects us to always jump without flinching, though.  Genesis 15:6 does record that “Abram believed the Lord, and he credited it to him as righteousness.”  But just two verses later, Abraham voices his doubts: “Lord, how can I know….” The Lord does not get angry with him, but does swear a covenant on His own life to reassure Abraham.  Many times throughout the Bible people beg God to confirm and reassure them, and He responds with love and patience.  As the apostle says in 1 Peter 5:7, “Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you.”

     PS: Our favorite part of this story though is Gen 18:16, when Sarah denies having laughed at the idea of having a baby.  We always chuckle at the Lord’s matter-of-fact reply: “No, you did laugh.”

Churches Reaching Students

     Each week a Cru team in North Carolina prayer walks two of the 85 colleges in their state, especially those with no known gospel activity. They also reach out to churches in the vicinity of those campuses. Recently, one of those meetings was a tremendous encouragement in our search for local churches who will reach out to the students in their back yard with the gospel.

Pastor Chris greeted us by saying that we were an answer to prayer. The church leadership had been praying for the local campus for over two years.  They’ve been trying to figure out how to have an influence there, but they were feeling stuck and lacking in expertise. As our team heard more about the church’s ministry philosophy and commitment to seeing people become disciples of Jesus, the discussion naturally evolved into partnership.

Pastor Chris is connecting us to a professor and a student in the church who love Jesus and want to have a personal ministry on campus. Our goal is to work together to launch a new campus movement in fall 2021.  Please pray for a successful launch this fall and that God would forge more partnerships like this around the country.

High School Graduates

   A number of people have asked us about resources related to the transition from high school to college, so we felt it would be good to send you this information immediately:

On Sunday, May 16, high school students from across the nation will join us virtually for the National Senior Sendoff called “Faith for the Journey.” This celebration will feature performances, spoken word, and inspirational testimonies from Christian artists and speakers of this generation. It’s a combined effort of Cru and the many other ministries that team up to form EveryCampus.  We’re encouraging high school graduates to seek the Lord and pursue gospel communities during their transition from high school to college.

If you know any graduating seniors (or their parents or youth leaders), please let them know about this event.  Please also pray for students to come and respond to this opportunity, which can make a difference between a path of light or darkness as these young people take a huge step toward independence and who they plan to be as they grow up.

Also, if you haven’t seen it already, the Every Student Sent site can tell you and your seniors if there is a ministry on the college campus that they’re headed to. Just type the name of the college/university into the search bar and it should tell you every active ministry on campus.

What God’s Been Teaching Us

     In an effort to minister better to some neighbors, as well as to grow in general, I (Jeff) have been reading a book called “Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus” about a man named Nabeel. It was very eye-opening to learn about growing up in a culture so different from my own, and yet see things we had in common as we were both boys growing up in the 80s.

     People tend to think that the major world religions are basically the same, teaching “be good” and “earn a better after-life.” They assume most religions have a similar amount of historical and practical support, so they should be considered, respected, or dismissed equally. It doesn’t take a lot of research, however, to discover out how incorrect that myth really is. For one thing, the Bible and the Quran disagree strongly and clearly about some pretty important historical facts (such as whether Jesus Christ ever claimed to be God and whether He rose from the dead). One book cannot be true if the other is. 

     “Muslims believe that Jesus is no more than a prophet, and to consider him God incarnate would be blasphemy and would cause one to be condemned to hell eternally… I had been repeatedly taught that Paul had corrupted Jesus’ message, misleading billions into worshiping the mortal Messiah.”

     Nabeel shows in his book how the Bible outshone the Quran in every category, but it took years for him to overcome the blind trust in human authorities who had taught him. He said, “I needed a friend, an intelligent, uncompromising, non-Muslim friend who would be willing to challenge me. Of course, not only would he have to be bold and stubborn enough to deal with the likes of me, but I would have to like and trust him enough to dialogue with him about the things that mattered to me most.”  Who trusts you enough to ask you about what matters?