Are You a Christian Who Smells?

2 Corinthians 2

12Well, when I came to the city of Troas to preach the Good News of Christ, the Lord gave me tremendous opportunities. 13But I couldn’t rest because my dear brother Titus hadn’t yet arrived with a report from you. So I said good-bye and went on to Macedonia to find him.

14But thanks be to God, who made us his captives and leads us along in Christ’s triumphal procession. Now wherever we go he uses us to tell others about the Lord and to spread the Good News like a sweet perfume. 15Our lives are a fragrance presented by Christ to God. But this fragrance is perceived differently by those being saved and by those perishing. 16To those who are perishing we are a fearful smell of death and doom. But to those who are being saved we are a life-giving perfume. And who is adequate for such a task as this? 17You see, we are not like those hucksters—and there are many of them—who preach just to make money. We preach God’s message with sincerity and with Christ’s authority. And we know that the God who sent us is watching us. (2 Corinthian 2:12-17, NLT)


The Daily DAVEotional

There’s a commercial that has been running lately on a local hit radio station I listen to.

A woman is upset that she can’t get a plumber to tell her over the phone how much they charge to unclog a drain.

Queue the sound of a harp, signifying the entrance of another person.

The woman says, “Wow, you smell good. Who are you?”

“I’m Mike Diamond, the smell-good plumber.” Diamond goes on to tell the potential customer that they will gladly come and unclog almost any drain for $99.

I’m aware of a stereotype about plumbers but it doesn’t involve how they smell. Nevertheless, the plumber in this radio spot is trying to set himself and his company apart from others in the industry by marketing themselves as plumbers who show up on time, are clean and smell good.

Paul, in this chapter of 2 Corinthians says that Christians have a smell. To some, our smell is fragrant but to others, our smell is rotten. What’s he talking about? What is going on in this passage?

Paul begins this section by comparing Christ’s conquest over death to a Roman triumphal procession. A Roman triumphal procession was a great honor that was only bestowed on generals who had accomplished great victories over a foreign enemy, usually resulting in the end of a conflict that involved great military spoils.


NOTE: For more information on the Roman triumphal process, check out this article on britannica.com


The procession was essentially a parade that consisted of political leaders in the front, followed by musicians and then sacrificial animals. Then came the spoils of war (the prisoners), followed by the general, and lastly, the general’s soldiers.

Throughout the procession, the burning of incense to the gods created a ubiquitous aroma that filled the air with a fragrance that added to the aura of the occasion.

When the procession reached its conclusion at the Temple of Jupiter, the prisoners were usually slain while thank offerings were made to Jupiter and the political and military leaders feasted.

Thus, if you were a prisoner in that procession, the aroma, though pleasant to the nostrils, was literally the smell of death. For the rest of the procession, and those cheering in the crowds, the smell signified victory.

Paul says that we as his followers have been taken captive by Christ and we are now a part of his procession. We are commissioned by Jesus to share the gospel with others. Paul says that this act of service is like a sweet perfume, an offering of worship made to God himself.

This fragrance is perceived by our fellow humans in two different ways. For those who respond to the message, the smell is life-giving, but to those who reject the message, the smell is one of death and doom.

Notice that we don’t determine whether the smell is a life-giving fragrance or the smell of doom to others. That is determined solely by the response of the listener.

Though we can’t control how others perceived our smell, we can control whether we smell or not. We can choose to not smell at all by ignoring God’s command to share the message, or we can choose to smell by sharing the message with others without regard to how they will perceive it.

We have an awesome opportunity to invite others to be a part of Jesus’ triumphal procession. The reality is that everyone is already a part of the procession. For those who don’t know Jesus, they are the prisoners who are on their way to certain death. However, If they respond to the gospel message, they can be freed from impending doom and join us as captives in the back of the procession, becoming a part of God’s mighty, victorious army!

Reflection

Paul says that when we share the good news with others, people will perceive it (smell it) in two different ways. But that presupposes that we are involved in sharing with others. What motivates you to “smell” (share the gospel) with others? What keeps you from smelling?

In your own experience, what was it about the message of Christ that made it “life-giving”?

In your opinion, what are some things we can do as Christians to make our “smell” more attractive to those we are trying to reach?

 

Photo by Lenka Sluneckova on Unsplash

Evangelism in the Digital Age

Every day thousands of people around the world connect to the internet seeking answers to their questions. The internet has actually made it easier for spiritual seekers to seek out spiritual information because they can do it in relative anonymity, which turns out to be very beneficial, especially if you live in a country that is hostile to religion in general or Christianity specifically.

Cru has had a digital presence for many years with the creation of our everystudent.com and everyperson.com websites.

Using strategic google advertising and marketing, articles that appear on our sites are viewed by thousands of people from around the world each day, with millions coming to know Jesus as a result.

A few weeks ago, I contacted Marilyn Adamson, who directs our online evangelism efforts. I’ve known Marilyn since 1998, when she and her husband were on a summer missions project that Jen and I attended in Myrtle Beach. Her husband Mike was one of my trainers that summer as Jen and I were being trained to become new Cru directors at UC Davis.

I e-mailed Marilyn to let her know I was available to connect with Young Adults who might come to Christ through our websites and who continue engaging with us via one of our Follow-Up platforms, such as StartingWithGod.com.

Marilyn promptly e-mailed me back to tell me that the timing of my e-mail was “quite interesting.” We set up a phone conversation where she told me she had just been approached by someone who wanted to help Cru expand their online evangelism efforts by utilizing Facebook advertising.

Cru’s evangelism efforts had mostly been promoted through google advertising so Facebook would be a new avenue of engagement.

Marilyn was apprehensive about moving forward with Facebook advertising because she just didn’t have the capacity to monitor and manage our Facebook page (everystudent.com). But my “timely” e-mail made her think that it could work if I would be willing to manage and oversee the Facebook page. I agreed to help.

After a few days of nosing around the site, I noticed a lot of activity and interaction, mostly from people reacting to the articles and videos they had seen, or users posting positive comments of approval. But from my vantage point, it was hard to know whether the ads were really making an impact. I simply didn’t have access to the marketing data that would give an indication of the effectiveness of our campaigns.

I e-mailed Marilyn about a week later to share my insights. She quickly responded telling me how thankful she was that I was monitoring the page and weeding out spammers and scammers and interacting with people who were wanting to engage.

She then told me something that floored me. She said that in just the few weeks they had been promoting the site through targeted advertising, over 330 people had indicated decisions to place their faith in Christ!

A few days ago, I saw some “Insights” that Facebook sends their users regarding the amount of traffic and activity on their page.

I was amazed to see that in the 28 day period shown, our ads reached over 7 million people, with over a million people engaging in some way with the content being published (Likes, comments, sharing, etc.).

Social media is a mixed bag these days and I’ve written about the downsides of social media in previous posts here,  here and here. But there are positive aspects to it as well and it’s not likely to go away as it has been firmly planted within our culture.

One positive benefit of social media is it allows us to get the gospel to millions of spiritual seekers very quickly and we can reach people in locations that would be very difficult to get to personally.

If you would like to use everystudent.com or everyperson.com articles to reach people in your network of relationships, consider sharing an article to your Facebook feed or other social media platforms and invite your friends to read and discuss with you. It’s an easy way to share your faith with others!

Expanding Our Influence Through the Internet

I recently saw a post on my twitter feed that showed how Amazon has become so big, that it’s beginning to dwarf older traditional brick and mortar stores. Amazingly, 30% of ALL online shopping in December was through Amazon. Best Buy was a distant 2nd with less than 4% of the online holiday shopping market share. (Click here for an article on Amazon’s December dominance)

It’s no wonder that retail giants such as Sears and Macy’s are shutting down stores at alarming rates.

The internet has completely transformed how we shop. It’s also changed how we think and gather information. Traditional news sources such as newspapers and magazines are becoming a thing of the past as most people now utilize the internet as their primary source of information.

The EveryStudent.com and EveryPerson.com websites are reaching literally thousands of people each day in every country of the world. The blue areas represent locations where people have connected with the site.

A few years ago, Cru recognized the potential of the internet for world evangelization, especially in countries traditionally closed to the gospel. EveryStudent.com was born and has now been supplemented with the sidekick site EveryPerson.comIn every year since it’s existence, it’s reach and influence have increased.

Last year, for example, 24.2 million people visited the site, with 343,000 people indicating decisions for Christ. That’s an average of 940 people per day, many of whom live in countries where it is difficult to even send a missionary, much less produce a genuine decision for Christ.

StartingWithGod.com is a website that helps new believers continue in their growth journey with Jesus.

With the rapid growth of the site, Cru realized the need to provide resources for the growing number of converts, so they created the site StartingWithGod.com, where new believers can sign up to receive a spiritual starter kit that’s designed to provide basic follow-up and discipleship.

After receiving an update a few weeks ago detailing the performance of the EveryStudent / EveryPerson sites, I sent a quick note of encouragement to the director of the site expressing my gratitude for her leadership and vision to expand the reach of the gospel in non-traditional ways.

Though I wasn’t expecting a response, I got a reply where I was reminded that I had contributed an article that is being used on the StartingWithGod.com follow-up site.

I don’t quite recall all of the circumstances, but I had given a talk many years ago on “The nature of faith”. I took the concepts of that message and created a short article, which I submitted for use in this follow-up site.

I was surprised to learn that last year, over 6,000 people read my article on the English site alone. Considering there are alternate versions of the site in Arabic, Chinese, Czech, French, German, Hungarian, Italian, Portuguese, Romanian, and Spanish, the number of people around the world who read the article was potentially in the 10’s of thousands.

A snapshot of Dave’s article, “The Nature of Faith.” Click image to go directly to the article.

I was amazed, as I had no idea that many people were reading an article that I wrote several years ago. To tell you the truth, I had entirely forgotten about the article being a part of the spiritual starter kit. It was a reminder to me how God can take something seemingly insignificant in our eyes and multiply it many times over for His kingdom purposes.

Here’s what’s really exciting. YOU can begin to reach others outside of your normal social circles by utilizing the resources that EveryStudent.com provides.

EveryStudent.info/videos is a site that offers a number of short training videos to help you learn how to utilize the articles on the site within your Facebook feed to potentially reach thousands of people with the message of Christ.

In particular, the 4th Section, titled “Impact Thousands” gives some practical input on how to post links to your Facebook and other social media feeds that will direct people to the EveryStudent.com website.

Give it a try and let us know how it goes.

Shamrock, UFC and LinkedIn

The Greatest FightLast summer I received an e-mail regarding a film that was soon to be released online entitled “The Greatest Fight”. Intrigued, I clicked on the link (www.thegreatestfight.com) and soon learned that it was a documentary on Ken Shamrock, considered by many to be one of the founding fathers of the modern UFC (Ultimate Fighting Championship).

Immediately, my mind was flooded with images and memories of a guy named Jerry Perez, whom I had met nearly 20 years ago while I served with Cru at Fresno State. What made me think about Jerry is that he was really into the UFC. Those were the early days of the sport, actually, and it really hadn’t achieved mainstream status yet. But Jerry and his family watched every UFC pay-per-view event as they were broadcast, and had recorded every one of them onto VHS tapes.

Jerry was a student I met on campus while sharing my faith. Our paths crossed and I had the privilege of leading Jerry to Christ and helping him with his initial growth in the faith. I wrote about my experience with Jerry in a newsletter, which you can read about at: goo.gl/inuVkr. Jerry and I connected because we had both been wrestlers in high school and it was Jerry who introduced me to the UFC world.

One weekend when Jen was out of town, Jerry came over early in the day carrying a stack of VHS video tapes that included every UFC pay-per-view broadcast since its inception just a few years prior. We spent hours that weekend watching the entire history of UFC fights and it was there that I became acquainted with early UFC legends such as Royce Gracie, Dan Severn and Ken Shamrock.

The website for “The Greatest Fight” explained that the film is a window into the struggle Ken Shamrock experienced as he came to the end of his fighting career. But more than that, the film shows a larger story emerge, “one where a man’s total identity is being changed.” I realized that the movie was really about the spiritual changes that Ken Shamrock experienced.

Watch Ken Shamrock’s testimony on the 700 Club

I thought back to Jerry Perez. The last 6 months that Jen and I were in Fresno before moving to Davis to start Cru, I began to see less and less of Jerry. He was working to make some extra cash and didn’t seem to have as much time for Bible studies and on campus meetings. One of the last times I talked to Jerry I remember him saying something to the effect that while he appreciated the time I had invested in him over the last year, he had decided that the Christian life just didn’t work for him. To say I was bummed would be an understatement. Over the years, I would think about Jerry from time to time, but I had no real way to connect with him.

But when Jerry came to my mind last summer, I thought, “maybe he’s on Facebook.” A quick search revealed that he WAS on Facebook but his profile was configured in such a way that I wasn’t able to initiate with him. I then wondered if he might be on LinkedIn, which is sort of a Facebook forum for business professionals. I quickly located Jerry on LinkedIn and was able to send him a message. To my surprise, Jerry responded within an hour or so. We exchanged several messages back and forth which led me to think that perhaps Jerry had not given up on God as I had thought all these years.

Jerry and I meet for the first time in nearly 19 years!
Jerry and I meet for the first time in nearly 19 years!

 

Over the Christmas break, our family was able to travel together outside of the SoCal area for the first time in 2 years. We spent several days in Fresno visiting Jen’s family and the first day we were there, I arranged to have breakfast with Jerry.

It was amazing to connect with Jerry after almost 18 years and see that he’s married, with kids, involved in church and seeking to follow the Lord as he looks to get involved in the local Gideons chapter where he lives. It was a very nice Christmas gift from the Lord.

Thanks so much for your prayers and partnership with us, which have allowed us to help people like Jerry make life-impacting decisions that lead to true spiritual transformation!

Story of a Changed Life

Jennifer and I were on staff with Cru at the University of Arizona for our first couple of years of marriage, so we have an affection for the ministry there. In addition, one of our former UC Davis students and his wife are the directors of the ministry there now. So it’s always fun to see what the Lord is doing on the campus there through some of our former leaders.

Here is a short video, highlighting a student who came to Christ through the Cru ministry at the University of Arizona.

The Giver

Memories. They have the power to move us to action and transform us. Conversely, the absence of memory can divert us from fulfilling our full potential and true purpose.

In the recent movie, The Giver, Jeff Bridges plays an elder in a dystopian society where people are devoid of memories of the past and are restricted from any meaningful choices. Everything from birth to death is carefully monitored and orchestrated and only the Giver (Bridges) knows the memories of man’s true history. Memories and choices are suppressed because as the chief elder, played by Meryl Streep, explains, “when faced with choice, man always makes the wrong choice. Every time.”

In the void of memories and true choice, it’s not surprising that this utopian society lacks the ability to establish deep, meaningful connections and fails to fully understand the concept of love. In fact, the word “love” is considered antiquated and without meaning.

The key character in the movie is a young man named Jonas, who is selected for the task of being the receiver of the memories of humanity as he ultimately will become the next Giver. At first, Jonas is exposed to only happy, joyous memories, like riding a sled down a snow-laden hill or seeing people dance and laugh at a wedding. This has the effect of piquing Jonas’s curiosity.

But when Jonas experiences the trauma of pain and suffering by witnessing memories of death and war, it’s as if something that was dead inside has finally been awakened. Jonas realizes that the existence that everyone has been living in this highly ordered community fulfills only a shell of their true potential and purpose for life.

I wonder if that is not part of God’s purpose when we experience trials, pain and even suffering in this life. Perhaps these experiences are designed to awaken us to our true purpose and to remind us of our frailty and brokenness and nudge us toward our Creator.

Nick (left) was awakened to a greater purpose in life after experiencing a brain tumor. With the help of Tony (right), Nick was introduced to a relationship with Christ.
Nick (left) was awakened to a greater purpose in life after experiencing a brain tumor. With the help of Tony (right), Nick was introduced to a relationship with Christ.

A few months ago I received an e-mail from my friend Tony, who lives in Davis. Tony is a Radiologist and he e-mailed to ask for my help.

A few years before, Tony had treated a young man named Nick who had a brain tumor and was given a very slim chance of survival. Amazingly, Nick survived his treatment and made a full recovery. Nick graduated from college and got a very lucrative job in the Bay Area. For some reason though, it all seemed meaningless to Nick, so he quit his job and moved back to Sacramento.

After several years of working various jobs and searching for meaning and purpose, Nick recently had the opportunity to reconnect with my friend Tony. After hearing Nick’s story, Tony suggested to Nick that his experience with a brain tumor had likely awakened in his heart an awareness that there is a greater purpose to life and that what he was really searching for was God.

Nick thought for a moment and then responded, “I think you hit the nail right on the head!” Nick agreed to meet with Tony again later to talk further.

Tony had scheduled a lunch appointment with Nick and wanted to share with him how he could experience a relationship with Christ but Tony was unsure about how to go about doing that. So Tony e-mailed me to see if I could help him prepare for this conversation about God with Nick.

Over the phone, I was able to give Tony a crash course training in evangelism and encourage him in how to share his faith with Nick. I armed him with a few resources, some key questions to ask and some helpful tips and then I prayed for him and encouraged him as he took a step of faith to do something that quite frankly, was a bit scary for him.

Not long after that, I received a text from Tony that simply said, “Praise God! Nick accepted the Lord today!”

Please pray for Nick and his new relationship with Christ. Pray that he would be firmly rooted and would grow in his new faith. And please continue to pray for us as we continue to navigate health issues. Pray too that we would experience God’s ultimate purposes for our lives and that our experience would nudge us toward our Creator!

     As we enter this holiday season, it is our sincere hope that you will remember that Jesus is the true Giver. He alone gives us physical life and He alone can save us from the wrong choices that we make. And He alone imparts spiritual life to those whose hearts have been awakened to the greater, truer purpose of our existence – to know Him!

We’re No Longer On Campus, But We’re Still Reaching Students

The role of a missionary is to establish ministries and raise up leaders who can take over, allowing the missionary to move on to establish new ministries.

For more than 20 years, Jen and I worked on university campuses to establish ministries and raise up leaders and laborers. Though we’re no longer serving on campus, we’re still involved in reaching students. By God’s grace, many of our former students are now leading the charge to reach this year’s freshmen on campuses throughout California, Arizona and around the world.

Roper-Dave-UCI2014
Jon Roper (left), was a student involved with Cru at UC Davis and now leads the Cru ministry at UC Irvine.

This past week, I had the opportunity to spend the day at UC Irvine helping one of our former students, Jon Roper, who is now leading the Cru ministry there. Jon and his team are in the middle of Welcome Week, seeking to reach out to more than 20,000 students on the campus.

As I approached the table where Jon and 30+ students were already setting up for the day, I thought about all the hard work and effort that was expended just to get ready for that week.

Preparing for the first week of school was a gargantuan task when Jen and I were ministering on campus. Promotional materials had to be created and printed weeks ahead of time. Students had to be mobilized to show up early. Rooms and tables had to be reserved. Small groups had to be organized. Students needed to be trained in setting up appointments and sharing their faith.

Jon and I interacting with some international students from India.
Jon and I interacting with some international students from India.

A variety of events had to be planned and implemented during that first week. Everything we did was aimed at reaching as many students as possible, in the hopes of introducing them to Christ and plugging them into a community of Christ-followers that would aid them in growing into mature disciples of Jesus.

While the pace was harrowing, the reward was great. Often we would have thousands of new students to contact during the fall quarter. Some were already Christians who were looking for community, but many were non-believers with whom we had the privilege of sharing Christ.

I certainly don’t miss the long hours and hard work that went into the Fall outreach but the excitement and energy that occurs when mobilizing students is infectious.

Beth-CPP-Epic1
Beth (middle), was a student at UC Davis. She now ministers with Cru at Cal Poly, Pomona.
CPPomona2
Cal Poly, Pomona Epic students hand out snow cones to new students on campus

At UCI, it was fun to see Jon leading and directing his students to places around the campus to engage and interact with new students. Time will tell how the Lord will use those efforts but after just one day of engaging students, Jon’s team has over 1300 new contacts to follow up in the coming weeks.

Another former student, Beth Sekishiro, helped the Cal Poly Pomona Cru team initiate and collect over 700 surveys during their first few days and through those contacts, Beth was able to lead a freshman girl named Focus to Christ!

Because of your prayers and partnership, we are helping to reach students not only at UCI and Cal Poly, but also at Arizona State, San Jose State, University of Arizona, Chico State and numerous other locations in the U.S. and overseas.

CPPomona1
Cru students pass out campus maps with info for Cru activities printed on the back.

Thank you for your partnership, which has allowed us to raise up leaders who continue to carry on the work of reaching students long after we’ve tapped out! Please pray for these ministries as they endure long hours to reach out to thousands of students. And pray for us too as we continue to establish a new ministry among Millennials!

Click here to read the pdf version of The Lowedown!

Launching Full Swing into the Fall

Fall is the busiest time of year for our ministry. Our campuses spend an incredible amount of energy reaching out to new students and getting our message out. Most campuses attempt to engage with thousands of students during the first week, inviting them to fill out spiritual interest questionnaires. They then spend the next 6-8 weeks following up on new people and getting small groups up and running. It’s almost like a Greek Rush event that lasts for half of the first term, culminating with their Fall retreat.

UCI Welcome Week
Me and Epic Volunteer Aaron before heading out to engage new students with spiritual interest questionnaires

The Lord is doing some exciting things throughout the Pacific Southwest Region. Read the latest Lowedown to hear some updates of what the Lord is doing in many of our ministries this fall.

How Sure are You?

Aaron, Chris, Dave, JJ and Sam

“…how sure are you that you would make it into heaven and live with God for eternity?” His answer surprised me.

“To be honest, I don’t think I would make it”, he said. “I have done some really bad things and I’ll have to do a lot of good things to make up for all the bad things I’ve done.”

Last month, I had the opportunity to help coach and train some of our new staff in evangelism. Read the latest Lowedown to hear about a gospel conversation we had with Jose, a student at UC San Diego.