The Discipleship Do-Over

They say that if you watch baseball long enough, you’ll see something you’ve never seen before. That adage held true in a recent game when the Dodgers faced the Pirates.

In the bottom of the first inning, Pirates rookie Ke’Bryan Hayes, hit a long fly ball to right field that was ruled a home run. Just like that, the Pirates had an early 1-0 lead.

But immediately after the play, the cameras showed scurrying in the Dodgers dugout, followed by the umpires moving to the headsets for an official review. It was unclear why the Dodgers would dispute the ruling as every replay clearly showed the ball hitting the foul pole, which is considered fair territory. There was nothing to argue….or so it seemed.

After a very brief review, the main umpire removed his headset and clenched his fist, indicating that Hayes was being called out. Just like that, the home run was wiped away, the run was taken off the board and the Dodgers were no longer losing.

Things became clearer when the announcers showed replays of the runner rounding the bases. In his excitement, Hayes neglected to step on first base as he rounded the bag. The Dodgers noticed it and the replays confirmed it. Since he didn’t touch all the bags, the home run was negated and the runner was called out.


Incidentally, the announcers explained later, that a play like this, where a home run was reversed because a runner had not touched all the bags, had not occurred since 1971.


Ke’Bryan Hayes of the Pirates neglects to step on first base as he rounds the bag on a home run. He was called out after a challenge confirmed the gaffe.

The cameras zoomed in on a stunned Hayes in the Pirates dugout. At that moment, I’m sure he was wishing he could have a Do-Over.

As we coach and mentor Young Professionals, it seems like we’re often encountering people who wish they could have a do-over.

Many don’t like their jobs or are struggling with their career choice. Others lament the amount of debt they committed to, having believed their education would ensure them a well-paying job that would render such large financial obligations moot.

Unfortunately, we can’t go back in time and change our decisions, but we can seek to leverage our experiences and all of our learning for God’s kingdom purposes going forward.

That’s what our friend Grace is doing.

We actually knew Grace from our days back in Davis when she was an engineering student involved in our Cru ministry. Grace graduated and got a job working as an engineer.

Grace is living in our area and Jen reconnected with her a few years ago when we started ministering to Young Adults. Though Grace had worked for many years as an engineer, she didn’t really like it. When layoffs forced her out of a job, she took some time to consider what she really wanted to do.

I realize that not everyone is in a position to be able to consider a career change, but Grace was in a situation that allowed her to consider what was important to her and how she could best utilize her talents and passions to serve the Lord and make a difference in the lives of others.

Grace is an artist at heart and she’s looking for ways to use her creative abilities to minister to others.

Jen and Grace meet in person for the first time in over a year!

Recently, Jen asked Grace if she would connect with another Young Adult Jen has been coaching. Jen thought it might be helpful for this person to have someone else in their life who could provide additional spiritual input and emotional support.

It turns out this other Young Adult also has a creative bent, allowing Grace to connect with her in a way Jen could not.

Our vision is to help Young Adults thrive spiritually and live with purpose. We want to multiply our lives into others so that we might see an army of Young professionals mobilized to make a difference in their families, their jobs, and in their communities.

We are constantly reminded that ministry is messy. We’re no longer ministering to students who have limited responsibilities and unlimited dreams. Instead, we’re coaching and counseling Young adults, who sometimes are struggling to meet the increased demands of life and who often are facing the stark realty that life is not exactly how they imagined or expected it to be.

Our hope is to help them experience Jesus in their current reality and imagine new dreams that would enable them to make a significant contribution to God’s Kingdom purposes!

Would you pray with us as we seek to see Young Professionals like Grace mobilized to multiply their lives into others?

We are grateful for you!

Discipleship and Change Through Coaching

Eric, with now wife Suemi, as a student at San Jose State University

I first met Eric thirty-one years ago. I was a brand-spanking new staff member with Cru at San Jose State University. It was a Friday night and we were hosting a Prayer night at the Crusade house where I lived with 12 other guys.

Eric opened the front door and walked in, looking for a friend who lived at the house. He felt like a deer caught in the headlights as he realized there was a prayer meeting happening. To avoid embarrassment, Eric played coy, acting as if he had intended to join.

Later that next week I met Eric on campus and we got into a deep spiritual conversation. Though Eric had a Christian background, he had never placed his faith in Christ, until that day.

Eric, taking time to reflect on God’s Word. As a new Christian, Eric spent the summer of 1990 on a Cru missions project in Santa Cruz getting vital discipleship training.

Over the next four years, Eric and I developed a close friendship as I helped him grow in his newfound faith. Since that time, we’ve stayed connected and remained friends, occasionally connecting as families as the opportunity has presented itself.

Earlier this year, I contacted Eric about coaching. I was looking to gain experience in implementing the training Jen and I had received last fall and I needed people to help me get started.

Unbeknownst to me, Eric had specifically prayed last fall that the Lord would give him wisdom and help him make progress in an area of his life that he’s struggled with for a long time – his health…specifically, his weight.

For years, Eric has tried to gain control of his weight, with very mixed results. There was a certain sense of urgency this time though as Eric’s doctor presented certain health related realities that were a direct result of his weight.

Can you relate? Is there an issue you’ve struggled with for as long as you can remember? It may not be weight or health-related but we all have areas in our lives that seem to hold us back.

Eric in 2002, attending a Sacramento area Cru Vision Dinner.

Eric and I officially began our coaching relationship right before Covid hit and the primary issue we’ve been tackling is Eric’s goal to lose 90 pounds.

If that sounds like a big goal, it is. Coaching isn’t a panacea. It’s not the silver bullet that solves all issues or problems. Primarily, it’s an avenue for self-discovery that empowers those who want to see growth and change make progress in areas that matter most to them.

For Eric, the journey has been long and hard. There have been many ups and downs. But with setbacks, coaching provides a structure for support that makes it a bit easier to keep going instead of throwing in the towel.

Eric has now lost 45 pounds and is half-way to his goal. He feels better, has more energy and is starting to see improvement in some of his weight-related health concerns.

Recently, I asked Eric about the spiritual connections he’s made through his weight loss journey.

Eric and I using Google Meet for a virtual coaching call.

Eric said that he came to realize that losing weight was about more than just eating the right foods and exercising more, as important as those things are.

“There comes a point where you realize you can’t just will yourself to get the results you want to achieve. We lack discipline, focus and will power.” Eric went on to explain that we need help from others, whether that’s in the form of support and motivation or instruction and tools.

What Eric described to me is a picture of grace. Grace is applied when we can’t reach a standard we’ve set on our own and we need help to reach the goal.

Jesus is the ultimate grace-giver. He came to die for us, achieving the standard of righteousness required to experience a relationship with God that we couldn’t meet via our own efforts.

God answered Eric’s initial request from last fall by bringing others into his life to support him in his journey. I’ve been blessed to play a part in helping him hear the Lord’s voice through our coaching relationship.

How about you? What are the areas where you need the Lord to give you wisdom and grace to move forward to see significant life change? Who can you invite into your process to provide support and encouragement?

Coaching is an avenue that can help you gain greater awareness of your situation and provide support and encouragement to help you achieve goals that may have seemed out of reach.

Dealing With Doubts about God

While scrolling through my Twitter feed recently I saw a post from Sean McDowell with the title “Hawk Nelson’s Lead Singer Shares He Has Lost His Faith in God.”

My heart sank as I thought, “Not again.”

If you’re not familiar with Hawk Nelson, they are a Christian pop/rock band that has produced a number of top songs, including the enormously popular “Drops in the Ocean” and “Diamonds” from their 2015 mega-hit album “Diamonds”.

Jon Steingard, front-man for the Christian pop/rock band Hawk Nelson, recently announced via Instagram that he no longer believes in God.
Photo by Dave Lowe

I clicked on the link and read the article, as well as the 2200 word Instagram post from the lead singer, Jon Steingard, where he declared to his fans and to the world that he no longer believed in God.

What happened?

Steingard grew up as a pastor’s kid in a loving Christian home. Church was a way of life and since everyone he knew was a believer, he naturally became a believer. It was all he knew. He discovered his musical talents early on, participating in church worship and ultimately joining the Christian band, Hawk Nelson.

Steingard described his slow deconstruction of faith like wearing a sweater with a loose thread. As he pulled on the thread of doubt, the sweater of faith slowly began to unravel. Eventually, there was no sweater left.

What are the doubts that caused Jon Steingard’s sweater to unravel? The doubts mostly seem to stem from unanswered questions about the nature and character of God and the veracity of the Bible.

Steingard compared his faith deconstruction like a sweater with loose threads that began to unravel
Photo by rocknwool on Unsplash

For example, Steingard began to question the evil in the world. If God is loving, why wouldn’t he stop it? And what about natural disasters? Why is there so much suffering in the world? Steingard wondered why God seems so angry in the Old Testament and yet so loving in the New Testament.

Steingard also questioned various Biblical contradictions he saw and wondered how these inconsistencies could occur if God was really the author. He finally concluded that the texts were not authored by a perfect God but were the product of fallen, imperfect people like himself. It was at that point that Steingard realized there were no more threads to pull.

It’s a sad reality that more and more young adults like Jon Steingard are abandoning the church and the faith with which they grew up. There are a myriad of reasons for this but doubt and uncertainty about the truthfulness of the Bible and the Christian worldview is a common “thread” (pun intended) in the stories of many prodigals. The truth is, doubts are common. But they don’t have to be an onramp that leads to the deconstruction of your faith.

How should we handle doubts?

First, I think we need to acknowledge doubt and do our best to give space to those who have real questions without making them feel like 2nd-class Christians. Highlighting those who have struggled with doubts and allowing them to share their stories could go a long way to helping de-normalize the phantom-Christian caricature (who never doubts) that many hold.

Doubts and questions, while common among Christians, don’t have to be an onramp to deconstruction of our faith.
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels

Secondly, while we acknowledge that doubt is real and common, we also can affirm that being a Christian does not mean being anti-intellectual. It’s popular in our culture for people to promote the idea that faith is anti-science (whatever that means). The reality is that faith and science aren’t in opposition to one another and Christianity is and always has been based on truth.

Third, we need to help those with doubts to reinforce the loose threads on their sweaters instead of pulling them and unraveling their faith altogether. We do this by helping them to see the truth in the foundations of the Christian faith. This is a primary role of apologetics.

The questions Jon Steingard wrestled with are not new. They are the same questions Christians have been wrestling with for two thousand years. The good news is that there is a lot of scholarship that affirms the Christian position and provides reasonable responses to many long-standing doubts and questions.

How is your sweater of faith? Are there loose threads of doubt? If so, reach out to someone who can help show you appropriate ways to reinforce your faith with a foundation of truth.

Nobody, whether Christian or non-Christian has all the answers. Life is complex and chaotic. But we believe God has revealed himself to us clearly through the Scriptures and through the person of Jesus Christ. This isn’t just some Sunday school fairy tale but is based on solid evidence.

If you’re struggling with doubts, let us know. We don’t have all the answers but we can point you to resources that you may find helpful.

 

How do we Disciple in Digital Babylon?

Over the summer I attended a breakfast at our National Cru Conference that featured a speaker who was talking about the value of coaching. He made an interesting statement that stuck with me. He said, “Growing up in the church I was discipled by events.” He followed by saying he wasn’t against events but that event-oriented discipleship wears out the leaders AND the participants.

Recently, I’ve been reading Faith For Exiles by David Kinnaman. It’s a fascinating peek into current research regarding Young Adults and their relationship to the church. One of the main points of the book, which we highlighted in last month’s Lowedown, is that we’re living in “Digital Babylon.” The idea of Digital Babylon is that people are so connected to their screens that we’re slowly being indoctrinated to the culture’s values by the content we’re immersed in through our phones and other digital devices. I was particularly struck by the statement that “Screens demand our attention. Screens disciple.”

Four Kinds of Exiles, from Barna Research …. Prodigals – those who no longer claim to be Christian …. Nomads – those who still claim to be Christian but are not engaged with a church community …. Habitual Churchgoers – those who attend church regularly but not engaged at church …. Resilient Disciples – those who attend AND are engaged in church and desire to see their community transformed as a result of their faith.

The question we’ve been trying to answer as we seek to resource and equip Young Professionals is how do we disciple this generation in this cultural environment? Kinnaman seeks to answer this question as well, pointing out that “in a previous era, we had some semblance of success mass-producing disciples.”

Our focus in the church has traditionally been on using events to reach and disciple people, just as the speaker at my summer breakfast had mentioned. But the dropout rate of Young Adults who have left the church demonstrates that this method and approach doesn’t work in today’s culture. We need a different approach if we’re going to develop disciples in “Digital Babylon.”

My experience with Young Professionals over the past few years has led me to the conclusion that most Young Adults have been so immersed in event-oriented discipleship through Youth groups and campus ministries that they cannot envision another way to grow in their faith and be connected to a Christ community.

It seems to me that many Young adults bounce around from place to place looking for an event-oriented community experience for people in their life stage. Finding this kind of community has proven to be as elusive for many Young adults as spotting a unicorn. As a result, many Young Adults we know get discouraged and some give up on church altogether.

Jen and I are working with a group of Young Professionals who desire to create Christ Communities among Young Adults where they currently do not exist.

But what if Young Professionals learned to lead themselves, instead of looking for the elusive event-oriented Young Adult community that doesn’t exist?

Kinnaman’s research shows that only 10% of Young Adults who grew up in a church are what he refers to as Resilient Disciples. People in this category are engaged with their church and have a strong desire to see communities transformed as a result of their faith.

Our hope is to work with these resilient disciples and unleash them to create Christ communities among their peers where they currently don’t exist. We can provide “discipleship”, not through highly organized events, but through Coaching, Leadership Development opportunities and connecting them to other like-minded, missionally-driven individuals.

We continue to learn and trust God for this next generation. We are so thankful for you and your part in helping us to disciple Young Professionals in this “Digital Babylon.”

Living and Ministering in Digital Babylon

Based on recent Barna research, Faith For Exiles is the latest book by David Kinnaman.

As I read the words on the very first page, I was hooked. David Kinnaman, in his latest book, Faith For Exiles, was describing what it was like to drop his oldest daughter off at college, with all of the emotions that you would expect. Having just dropped our twins off at schools that are 3000 miles away, I could relate to Kinnaman’s fears and anxieties concerning the question of how your child will fare spiritually in this new and secular environment without our guidance. Is their faith strong enough? Have we built the right character into them? Did we do a good job of preparing them spiritually for what lies ahead?

TOP LEFT: Jacob (left) waits in line to get on a bus to enter summer training for the Naval Academy
TOP RIGHT: Joshua waits in line to enter summer training for West Point
BOTTOM: Sign at West Point directing new students where to go

Kinnaman’s 2011 book, You Lost Me, argued that the church has a dropout problem. Research at the time showed that 59% of Young Adults who claimed a faith upbringing had left the church. New research shows the problem has gotten worse, with 64% of Young Adults abandoning the faith of their youth.     

What accounts for such a mass exodus? Kinnaman, and his co-author Mark Matlock, argue that our culture is “especially and insidiously faith repellant.” The biggest culprit, they contend, is our smart devices, which have created a digital culture that actually works against us. As a result, believers are swimming upstream, fighting to maintain their values and their faith beliefs in a culture that is becoming increasingly opposed and in some cases hostile to these values and beliefs.

Click on the image to watch this short video from thebibleproject.com, which explains what exile is and how the theme of “exile” is woven throughout the Bible

The Old Testament highlights God’s promise that if His people followed Him and worshiped Him alone, they would prosper. But He warned them that if they were disobedient, He would bring judgment in the form of invading armies who would conquer them and take them into captivity. Much of the Old Testament is story after story of the nation of Israel forsaking God to pursue false gods. God continually sends prophets to warn them of impending doom but His message inevitably falls on deaf ears.

Click on the image to watch this short video from thebibleproject.com, which highlights what it was supposed to look like for the Israelites who were living in exile in Babylon and what it means for us as believers “living in exile.”

God finally hands his people over to the Babylonians, who take the Israelites into exile, where they live for 70 years in a foreign land, amidst a foreign culture that serves foreign gods and does not share their religious and cultural values. In fact, one of the goals of taking a conquered people into captivity was the systematic dismantling and eradication of their culture and the assimilation and adoption of the invading empire’s culture and values.

Imagine what it was like to be a Jew living in Babylon. How hard would it be to resist adopting the culture in which you’re thoroughly steeped, while trying to keep your own faith and religious views alive?

Young Adults spend an enormous time on their phones and the content is not always helpful to to maintaining a vibrant faith. Photo by KAL VISUALS on Unsplash

We haven’t been taken into captivity and we’re not living in a foreign land, as the Israelites did, but the authors make the case that the internet age in which we’re living has created what they refer to as “Digital Babylon.” A sobering graphic shows that the average 15-23 year old spends nearly 2800 hours in a typical year engaging with media on their phone. For the average 15-23 year old who is not a Christian, only 153 of those 2800 hours contain ANY kind of spiritual or biblical content. The Christian Young Adult fares only slightly better, with 291 hours of biblical content to offset the nearly 2800 hours of input they’re getting.

Our “smart” devices have created a digital environment that is slowly indoctrinating us to views and values that are contrary to our faith. This is what it means to live in “Digital Babylon”.

It’s not all bad news though. There is a segment of Young Adults, identified as “resilient disciples” who are thriving spiritually even in this current cultural context. The book is really about the practices of this group that enable them to maintain a vibrant faith. It turns out that we’ve already identified many of these practices as critical to thriving spiritually and as a result, we’ve already implemented many of these practices in our own ministry to Young Adults.

Our prayer is that our influence would increase and the Lord would show us new ways and avenues to impact Young Adults, who are seeking to live as resilient disciples in “Digital Babylon.”

We greatly appreciate your partnership and your prayers as we strive to this end!

Life is Like a Broken Phone

It was the last day of our Spring Break trip visiting a potential college destination our boys were considering. As I was getting into the rental car, my phone slipped out of my hand and fell to the ground. There was a moment of panic as the phone hit the ground but I had a protective case on it and I had dropped it before and always seemed to avoid any serious damage.

My phone, with the familiar spiderweb-like cracked screen on the bottom right.

The phone was lying face down on the ground. As I picked it up and turned it over, I immediately noticed a spiderweb-like screen crack on the bottom right corner, along with a longer crack stretching across the bottom of the screen. My heart sank in frustration. While my phone wasn’t brand new, it still had plenty of life in it from my perspective. We all know that these new-fangled smart phones aren’t cheap, and one can hardly afford to be buying the latest technology every other year.

I briefly entertained thoughts of self-condemnation, chastising myself for being so careless.

I inspected the phone and found that even with a cracked screen, it appeared to be working normally. I resolved that I would be one of those people who was walking around for months, if not years, with a phone that technically worked on the inside but was clearly damaged on the outside.

Not long after, I noticed that the back plate on the phone was starting to come apart as if it was coming unglued. I wondered if the impact of hitting the ground had weakened the integrity of the back plate, causing it to loosen. I tried to squeeze it back together but clearly the glue was no longer able to hold it in place. I took solace in knowing that the case was holding it all together and it was still working normally.

The back plate on my phone started to come apart. That cant be good!

Over the next few weeks and months, that plate started pulling farther and farther apart. I determined that the issue was not related to the impact of hitting the ground but instead, the battery was failing and beginning to swell, pushing the back plate off and making it impossible to reattach, even with new glue. At that point, I realized that I was going to have to bite the bullet and get a new phone.

After some reflection, I considered how much our lives are like that broken phone. Every single one of us is broken – flawed in some way. It’s inevitable. We are born into a broken and fallen world where nothing works quite the way it was designed, including us. But just because we’re flawed doesn’t mean we can’t thrive and be productive.

Some of our flaws are external and visible to others, like the cracked screen on my phone. But some of our flaws are internal, hidden deep within the depths of our souls, like the battery that began to swell. Perhaps we’re not aware of our issues, or perhaps we are and we’re just really good at hiding our stuff.

The Pharisees were upset that Jesus’ disciples didn’t wash their hands before eating according to Jewish religious traditions. Photo by Samad Deldar from Pexels

In Matthew 15, the Pharisees were upset with Jesus because his disciples didn’t ceremonially wash their hands before eating. Jesus responded to the Pharisees by saying, “from the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, all other sexual immorality, theft, lying and slander. These are what defile you. Eating with unwashed hands could never defile you and make you unacceptable to God!” (Matthew 15:19-20, NLT)

What Jesus is saying is that our brokenness is an internal issue. All of the ugly stuff that we say and do or think but hide, all stem from our heart. The problem is that just like the battery on my phone began to swell and expand outward, what is on the inside in our hearts inevitably comes out, often in dark and ugly ways.

Unlike our phones when they break, we cannot just order a new, unbroken version of ourselves. We’re stuck with having to navigate broken screens and swelling batteries in our lives.

Jesus provides grace to deal with our brokenness and our internal issues. Photo by Greg Weaver on Unsplash

This is what makes the gospel such good news. The gospel is not just a message that saves us from sin and allows us entrance into heaven some day. The good news is that Jesus understands our pain and our issues and he meets us where we’re at every day. There is grace and forgiveness when we blow it, and there is truth and power to experience freedom and deliverance from sin and shame.

As a Christ-follower, I’m becoming more keenly aware of my brokenness and the internal issues that afflict me. I’m grateful that Jesus loves me and accepts me despite my flaws and issues and my hope is that he will meet me in my brokenness and help me understand my flaws and issues so that I might experience true freedom and victory.

We greatly appreciate your partnership and your prayers for us as we navigate life’s challenges and seek to help Young Professionals do the same!

Sibling Rivalries

Dave (left, 5 years old) and brother, Tom (6 years old)

Growing up, my brother Tom (who is a year older than me) and I were often mistaken for twins. I could never understand it because in my mind, we clearly look different (and I’m obviously the better looking one) but we were always about the same size growing up and often competed on the same sports teams.

In high school, we were sparring partners on the wrestling team. Practice matches could get very intense as we tried to best one another and on more than one occasion, the whole team gathered around us, entertainingly watching us as we “went at it”. In practice matches, we were rivals, but outside of practice we always had each other’s back. We wrestled in adjacent weight classes and often provided a 1-2 punch for the team, taking out the opponent’s light weights for a quick team lead. Our coach would sometimes jokingly refer to us as “Cheeseburger and Fries”, “Peanut Butter and Jelly” or “Combo Deluxe”!

Dave (left, 9 years old) and brother, Tom (10 years old) – Yankees Little League team

Growing up as identical twins, Jacob and Joshua have always been incredibly close, as you can imagine. We joke that they were “Womb-mates”.  But over the years, I’ve noticed some of the same sibling rivalry tendencies that I shared with my brother.

The other day, I was hanging out with my friend Pat, who was also our twins’ 5th grade Sunday School teacher. He shared about how they would show up early for Sunday School and immediately begin working on the weekly “Word Scramble” activity. Jacob and Joshua would feverishly attempt to be the first to finish, sometimes even arguing over who had “won” the competition for that week. He laughed that they often seemed more interested in beating the other one instead of figuring out how the activity connected with the lesson.

Even in running, there have been a number of occasions where things got heated and tempers flared as one tried to outdo the other at practice. But on the track or out on the course, Jacob and Joshua have always had each other’s back, often working together to outduel the competition.

It was not surprising to us that our boys applied to all the same colleges and made plans to go the same school. Nor was it surprising, because of their discipline and desire for both academic and physical challenge, that military academies were at the top of their list of college choices.

Joshua (left, heading to West Point) and Jacob (right, heading to the Naval Academy) suddenly find themselves as collegiate rivals, not just sibling rivals.

What we never really considered was the possibility that they could end up going to different colleges. Through a series of unforeseen circumstances, that’s exactly what has happened. Beginning this summer, just 2 weeks after graduating, Jacob will report to the U.S. Naval Academy, while Joshua will report to West Point. Because of different recruiting strategies by the school’s respective coaches, Jacob will for sure be running Cross Country and Track for the Naval team, while Joshua will attempt to earn a spot onto the West Point team. Jacob and Joshua may find themselves in the position of being true competitive rivals, which could make for some very interesting family discussions.

As I consider this unique situation, I realize that rivalries aren’t always bad. Proverbs 27:17 says that “as iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.” A healthy version of rivalry can help push us to become the best possible version of ourselves.

Hopefully, Joshua (left) and Jacob (right) will always be siblings first and rivals second!

Our prayer for Jacob and Joshua, in this next season of life, is that even though they will be attending rival schools and may even find themselves as rivals on the field, they will be siblings first, pushing each other and rooting for one another to become the best possible version of themselves.

We are grateful for you and your prayers for us and our twins. We would greatly appreciate your continued prayers for them as they enter this next season of life, not only being away from home but also being without each other for the first time. And please pray for us too as we officially become “empty nesters”.

 

BONUS MATERIAL: As I was preparing for this post, I came across an article about a famous set of identical twins who wrote competing advice columns. Did you know that the women behind the famous advice columns “Ask Ann Landers” and “Dear Abby” were identical twin sisters? And apparently (as well as ironically), they didn’t get along. Their competing columns created a bitter rivalry in which they didn’t even speak to each other for years. You can read more about their rivalry in this article  and also here.

The Power of a New Year’s Resolution

Photo by Crazy nana on Unsplash

There are two kinds of people in the world: those who make New Year’s resolutions and those who don’t.

It’s not hard to figure out why some people hate New Year’s resolutions. Many people hate the idea of New Year’s resolutions because they’ve made them over and over again, only to fail miserably over and over again. Nobody likes the feeling of failure.

We resolve to lose weight and we actually gain weight. We resolve to get a handle on our finances and yet we go deeper into debt. We resolve to read more and watch TV less  and yet we find ourselves binge watching the latest Netflix series during our free time (when we should probably be exercising)!

Photo by Jamie Matociños on Unsplash

Have you ever wondered why so many New Year’s resolutions fail? It’s because for most of us, we try to change our outward behavior without changing the inner person. We fail to address the core issues that cause us to do the things that we say we don’t want to do but we end up doing anyway.

Photo from Pexels.com

In The Godfather III, there is a scene where Michael Corleone (played by Al Pacino), feeling remorseful for his sinful life, is at the Vatican City talking to a priest. The priest picks up a stone from the fountain next to him and says, “do you see this stone? It has been surrounded by water from this fountain for many years. But the water has never penetrated the inside.” He then smacks the stone onto the pavement and it breaks in two. “You see? The inside is completely dry. This is like Christianity. People have been surrounded by Christianity for thousands of years and yet it does not penetrate their hearts.”

Forty-five years ago, my parents made a New Year’s resolution that greatly impacted me. Though they had both grown up going to church, we were not a church-going family. My parents, after much reflection, resolved to recommit themselves to the Lord and begin taking their family to church on Sundays.

As an eight-year old boy, I suddenly found myself in church on Sundays instead of sleeping in or messing around the neighborhood. It was not my preference, but as the weeks and months went by, I learned about my sinfulness and my need for forgiveness. I also learned about the payment Jesus made on the cross for my sin. I learned that I could receive forgiveness and enter into a relationship with God simply by putting my faith in Jesus and His death for me. My life was changed because of a New Year’s resolution.

If only I could get someone to take me on a walk!

What are the things you are hoping to change as you enter this New Year? What are your resolutions? They are probably similar to mine. I’d like to exercise more and read more. I should probably walk my dog more. I’d like to be more kind and compassionate and less impatient with others.

More than anything, my hope for this year is that Christ would penetrate my heart more deeply and that I would experience greater internal transformation as a result. I don’t want to just try to act better but my hope is that by Christ’s strength and power, I might be better – that I might become one who more accurately reflects Christ’s character to the world around me.

We are so grateful for you, our friends and ministry partners, whose encouragement motivates us to continue to pursue Jesus and the spiritual transformation that only he can offer.

Let us know what your resolutions are for this year and how we can pray for you to experience transformation in 2019!

Happy New Year!

Seeing Work as Meaningful

It was 1991 and I was tasked to spend the summer in Colorado working as part of the Summer Cru conference team. It was NOT my first choice for a summer mission but as luck would have it, I was assigned to work as a Teacher’s Assistant for Dr. John Sailhamer, who was teaching a two-week survey course on the Old Testament.

One of my duties was picking up Dr. Sailhamer in the morning and bringing him to campus so he could eat breakfast in the dining hall before class. This provided me the opportunity to get to know him in a casual environment. I found out he was a baseball fan and surprisingly very down to earth. When he found out that a group of us young, single, Cru staff guys were all going to see the new Terminator 2 movie that had just come out, he joined the group and enjoyed the movie as much as the rest of us.

The Pentateuch as Narrative by John Sailhamer was published in 1995.

At the time, Dr. Sailhamer was working on a book entitled “The Pentateuch as Narrative”. It was more of a scholarly work that wasn’t quite completed but it was fascinating to hear him share his thoughts, particularly his perspective on work. He contended that God had given Adam work to do BEFORE the fall and therefore work was good and meaningful. This challenged my perspective, which had always associated work with labor and toil and more of a penalty that resulted from the Fall.

A few months ago, while I was in the Sacramento area visiting friends and ministry partners, I had lunch with my friend Scott Agee, who has worked as a Civil Engineer for many years. I was interested in learning more about his job and what he does since my twins have shown interest in pursuing engineering as a possible major in college.

Scott Agee owns his own Civil Engineering firm, where he serves his customers, and the Lord by designing industrial laundries. To read Scott’s thoughts and guiding principles on the Theology of Work go to: http://bit.ly/SAgeeWork

As we talked, Scott made a comment that stuck with me. He said, “my job might not seem interesting to a lot of people…I design industrial laundry facilities…but I like to think I’m really providing a service to people…after all, everyone needs clean laundry.”

Scott, to me, is a great example of someone who loves what he does and through his work, finds tangible ways to meet people’s needs, while looking for opportunities to minister to them as God provides.

As we work with Young Professionals, one of our challenges is to help them to see their work as valuable. Sometimes, we can fall into the trap of believing that only those who are in full-time ministry, directly helping to meet other’s spiritual needs, are doing significant work.

Part of our role is what we call Vocational Discipleship – to help others to see that their work is important and meaningful and can be used by God to advance His kingdom purposes just as much, and perhaps even more, than those who are in full-time vocational ministry.

We’re still learning the best ways to impart these values and ideas to Young Professionals so we would greatly appreciate your prayers as we continue to dream and create the kind of environment that would help Young Professionals to thrive spiritually and live with purpose.

Thank you for your prayers and your partnership as we seek to ensure that Christ is exalted among this current generation of Young Professionals!


To see more of Scott’s thoughts on work and guiding business principles, go to:  http://bit.ly/SAgeeWork