I Will Always Be the Prodigal Son
So the quick update is that SICM was outstanding, as always. It somehow gets better each year. The group we took was really special, and the teaching staff up there said the same. All of that bodes well for our next school year! I've had a number of young men ask to be student leaders in the fall at UTD, and I know the other staff are getting the same.
Another quick story is that one of our alumni just graduated from medical school and Mandy (my counterpart for the women) got to go to her graduation party. When Mandy met this young lady's father, his response was “Oh, you're from FOCUS? I'm so thankful for FOCUS. It was one of the biggest blessings in my daughter's entire life.” Wow! I wish you (and I) could have been there. What an honor to be a part of someone's story in that way. Thanks for all the ways you support me and this mission to the campus–it keeps making a difference.
I wanted to highlight this month the two guys on my staff that I work most closely with. They are both outstanding examples of what a young man of God should be–humble, teachable, and growing. They are both very gifted in different ways and they have chosen to use those gifts to serve and bless UTD students.
|Laurence, Sirak, and me. I'm the really handsome one on the right.|
Sirak is gifted musically and intellectually. On the side, he teaches Sociology at Richland College, and his students love him because they know he loves them. (see his reviews on Rate My Professor) He oversees the worship teams for both universities, but he is especially gifted as a mentor for young men. He's evangelistic, insightful, and encouraging. He's entering his second year as a full staff member, and I'm so blessed to work alongside him another year.
Laurence just finished his internship with us last week. At the end of the internship, each intern preaches a sermon to our entire staff about what God has taught them over the course of the year. You would have been so encouraged to hear the kind of transformative work the Lord has done in those 9 lives through the FOCUS internship. Those sermons might be my favorite part of the whole year. Laurence started by having us look up a painting on our smart phones and spend a few moments contemplating it. It's called The Return of the Prodigal Son by Rembrandt.
He went on to share 3 personal axioms that sum up what God has been teaching him this year:
1. If I want to change, I have to choose to.
2. I've got to let myself be put on display. [think Jesus hanging on the cross, not a celebrity on stage]3. I will always be the prodigal son.
That last point really ministered to me. He shared about learning at a deeper level that he will always need God's grace, that he won't graduate from the cross. He said, “The cross is it–you either kneel or hit the road.” The sermon was a powerful reminder to me that God wants to use us in our weakness, not once we get strong. I encourage you to take it to heart–you will always be the prodigal son or daughter, but He will always be the ridiculously extravagant Father, hitching up his robes to run and meet you! He doesn't start that way and then become like the older brother. (Hopefully us older brothers become like Him.) You won't graduate from the cross–God wants to use you as you are, where you are. Obey Him today, and you'll end up where you need to be tomorrow. That's the very nature of the faith relationship.
I'm so excited about Laurence bringing that spirit to our men's ministry. He's an excellent teacher, but I'm always mindful of another leadership axiom: Character is caught, not taught. Laurence is coming on as a full staff member to work with the men at UTD, and I'm really excited about what he brings to the table.
It's guys like these that have me more excited than ever about campus ministry. It's on campus that we can find the best and brightest and give them a vision to spend their lives on things of eternal value, things of Kingdom-importance. I could tell stories like these about everyone on the FOCUS staff, and so many more besides. I appreciate your prayers–God is moving!