Helping New Believers Via Digital Discipleship

Last fall, I shared about how Cru is reaching people all over the world through our evangelistic websites EveryStudent.com and EveryPerson.com.

In August, over 5.3 million people visited one of our sites and well over 100,000 people made a decision to become followers of Jesus. If you do the math, that’s over 3300 people EACH DAY making a decision to accept Jesus as their personal Lord and Savior!

Every month, we receive hundreds of messages from people all around the world whose lives have been impacted. 

Lalit, from India, emailed us to say, “I now know that Jesus has sacrificed for us and he covered us by his blood, so our sins could be washed away. And I am really so happy because my life will be changed now by God. I tell many about God who is like this.” 

After accepting Christ, Hadijah from Uganda shared, ”I’m so glad that I accepted Jesus in my life. I love this change. I’ve been through tough times, but I’m feeling some change ever since I accepted Christ.”

Hundreds of thousands of people from all around the world are coming to Christ each month by reading evangelistic articles on the Cru websites at EveryStudent.com and EveryPerson.com.

Many of those accepting Christ are coming from the most challenging countries in the world (Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu and Atheistic Nations). The websites allow them to come privately, safely, and at their moment of interest/questioning.

But what happens to people once they’ve made a commitment to accept Christ into their lives?

Did you know that Cru also has a website aimed at discipling new believers as they begin their journey with Christ?

StartingwithGod.com is a Cru website that helps new believers build a strong spiritual foundation by introducing them to foundational principles of walking with Christ.

Those who indicate a new decision for Christ are invited to go to the site and sign up for the Spiritual Starter Kit, which initiates a series of emails that link to articles that explain important concepts for spiritual growth.

One of the articles, The Nature of Faith, helps new believers understand what it means to trust God in every day life. I wrote this article years ago as an adaptation of a talk I gave to Cru students.

Signing up for the spiritual starter kit at StartingwithGod.com allows new believers an easy way to take a next step in their new relationship with God.

Earlier this year, I learned about the impact the article is having in the lives of people around the world. 

Last year alone (2021), the article was read by over 10,000 new believers in English, Spanish and Portuguese  in addition to countless more who read the article in languages such as Albanian, Armenian, Arabic, Chinese, French, German, Indonesian, Japanese, Russian and many others.

If you’re looking for a simple way to introduce others to Jesus with little effort and no pressure, consider inviting your friends to visit EveryPerson.com where they can explore their spirituality and address their questions with complete freedom and anonymity.

An easy way to help others build a foundation for their faith is to encourage them to go to StartingwithGod.com and sign up for the Spiritual Starter Kit or one of the other email discipleship opportunities.

Please join us in praying for the continued impact of these sites to those around the world who are spiritually thirsty and seeking answers to life’s challenges. 

Thank you for your partnership, which enables us to minister to Young Professionals personally as well as people around the world digitally!

Making Jesus “Findable” to the World!

Did you know that one of the most frequented internet sites for people wanting to know more about God and Jesus is hosted by Cru?

Since 2002, more than 4 million people have indicated a decision to trust Jesus as a result of visiting one of our evangelistic sites.

Back in February I wrote about how Cru is reaching millions of people through our digital websites everystudent.com and everyperson.com. By utilizing strategic google advertising, literally millions of people from around the world are visiting our sites to learn what it means to trust Jesus for salvation and experience His peace through the adversities of life.

I got involved earlier this year in helping to monitor our Facebook page, which has seen increased interaction as we’ve begun to utilize more advertising on that platform to attract seekers to our site.

A few months ago, Marilyn Adamson, the director of our everystudent.com site sent out a quick e-mail update to let people know how effective the site has been in recent months. I thought you might be encouraged to hear some of the results.

In July, nearly 6 million people visited one of our sites with over 80,000 people indicating a decision for Christ. That’s nearly 2600 people every day making a commitment to Jesus!

Everystudent.com has been translated into more than 40 different languages, giving people from nearly every country in the world an opportunity to access the information on the site in their own language.

Marilyn says, “Many of these people are in India, UK, Egypt, South Africa, Pakistan, China, Australia…all over the world, actually. Some come via a VPN because they live in difficult countries, under threats to them. Yet, in private, God is leading them to EveryStudent.com, then to himself, and revealing himself to them as they grow.”

It’s exciting to see so many lives being changed and it’s especially encouraging to hear from those whose lives have been impacted.

People like Adarkwah, who says, “I appreciate what you are doing for me and am very grateful. I hope by the end of this lesson, I will be the one to tell people how wonderful God is.”

Nikitha says simply, “Thank you so much…my new life has begun.”

Anne wrote, “Thank you for sharing your sites. I read everything you send and more on your sites. Finding this has opened my understanding of faith, grace, etc. It’s amazing! I mean amazing!! I’ll never be able to thank you enough.”

Many of those whose lives have changed by coming to the site and hearing the truth about God and Jesus, are in turn, sharing with others and becoming multiplying disciples.

It’s amazing to me how God uses every avenue at his disposal to reach those who are earnestly seeking him.

The great news is that you can use the site to reach those in your community and sphere of influence as well. To find out how you can make Jesus findable to those around you by utilizing the resources of these websites, go to http://www.everystudent.info. There, you’ll find a wealth of resources that will help you to see the various ways you can actively and passively point people to the site.

Thank you for your prayers and partnership as we seek to make Jesus Findable to Young Adults and the world!

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!

God Wants You to Get Married

The Daily DAVEotional

Luke 9

57As they were walking along someone said to Jesus, “I will follow you no matter where you go.”

58But Jesus replied, “Foxes have dens to live in, and birds have nests, but I, the Son of Man, have no home of my own, not even a place to lay my head.”

59He said to another person, “Come, be my disciple.”

The man agreed, but he said, “Lord, first let me return home and bury my father.”

60Jesus replied, “Let those who are spiritually dead care for their own dead. Your duty is to go and preach the coming of the Kingdom of God.”

61Another said, “Yes, Lord, I will follow you, but first let me say good-bye to my family.”

62But Jesus told him, “Anyone who puts a hand to the plow and then looks back is not fit for the Kingdom of God.”


At the end of Luke chapter 9, someone tells Jesus he will follow Him wherever He goes. Jesus then lays out some requirements for truly following Him.

The first thing he says, in verse 58, is that “Foxes have dens to live in, and birds have nests, but I, the Son of Man, have no home of my own, not even a place to lay my head.”

What’s he saying? Jesus is saying that following Him may be uncomfortable and will require sacrifice. Are you willing to give up a life of comfort and ease in order to follow me?

Another person responded to Jesus’s call to discipleship by saying he wanted to first go home and bury his father. Jesus responds, in verse 60, saying “Let those who are spiritually dead care for their own dead. Your duty is to go and preach the coming of the Kingdom of God.”

Is Jesus against family responsibilities?

No. It’s unlikely the person’s father was already dead for if he was, the man would not likely have been there in the first place to interact with Jesus. What the man was really saying is that he would follow Jesus at a later date, when life circumstances are different. Jesus responds by saying that following Him means making Him a priority over everything else, including family.

Finally, a third person says he will follow Jesus but only after saying goodbye to his family.

Jesus responds by saying, “Anyone who puts a hand to the plow and then looks back is not fit for the Kingdom of God.”

Again, Jesus is not against families. He’s merely pointing out that following Him means enduring to the end.

What does this have to do with marriage?

Well, if you’ve ever been to a wedding ceremony, it’s traditional for the officiant to lead the participants in an exchange of vows. Usually, the official will ask each participant if they will commit themselves to the other person and stay committed through a variety of life’s conditions, including:

    • For richer for poorer (sacrifice)
    • In sickness and in health (priority)
    • ’til death do us part (endurance)

Notice that these conditions are the same conditions that Jesus set forth as necessary to be His follower. If you want to follow Jesus, it will take sacrifice; He must be your priority and you must endure to the end.

If you think about it, Jesus is asking us to marry Him. Not literally, of course. But to be a follower of Jesus carries that same level of commitment, dedication and intentionality.

Reflection

What do you think about the idea that when Jesus invites you to follow Him, it’s like He’s asking you to marry Him?

Which of the three conditions Jesus lays out for following Him do you struggle with the most?

What would keep you from committing yourself to Jesus in the way He invites His true followers?

 

Photo by Sandy Millar on Unsplash

The Most Important Question to Ask Yourself

27Jesus and his disciples left Galilee and went up to the villages of Caesarea Philippi. As they were walking along, he asked them, “Who do people say I am?”

28“Well,” they replied, “some say John the Baptist, some say Elijah, and others say you are one of the other prophets.”

29Then Jesus asked, “Who do you say I am?”

Peter replied, “You are the Messiah.” 30But Jesus warned them not to tell anyone about him. (Mark 8:27-30, NLT)


For the first half of the book of Mark, Jesus is revealing to His disciples WHO he is. He’s exposed his disciples to his teachings and many miracles, in which he demonstrates his power over nature, the physical realm and the spiritual realm. In Mark 8:27, Jesus asks the important question, “Who do people say I am?”

He follows up with an even more crucially important question: “Who do YOU say I am?”

When we’re engaging with others who don’t consider themselves followers of Jesus, it’s critically important that we help them come to a Biblical understanding of WHO Jesus is.

In Mark 8:28, Peter says that the main responses people often have about Jesus are “John the Baptist or Elijah, or one of the other prophets.”

People today have a lot of similar ideas about who Jesus is. Some say he’s a good teacher. Some say he’s a prophet. Still others say he’s a great moral example to follow.

These do not hit the mark. Peter gives the proper response regarding who Jesus is….He is the Messiah (or “the Christ”).

The most important question you can ask yourself (or others)?

Who is Jesus?

As we engage with others regarding the Christian faith, we have to help people come to this understanding of Jesus’s identity. He is not merely a prophet. He is not just a good person or some moral example to follow.

He is God. He is the promised Messiah (the promised deliverer)!

 

For more information on the Biblical evidence for Jesus’ deity, see my short article “Is Jesus God?”

Photo by Gift Habeshaw on Unsplash

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.”

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.