Monday, September 26

Last Saturday night, we had a "Thank You" dinner for some of the people and churches that make our ministry possible. For over 23 years now, we have had the pleasure of seeing God provide for this work through the generosity and faithfulness of his people. They are really the "unsung" heroes of what we do. Those who give to Christ on Campus do so simply out of their love for God, their love for college students, and their commitment to something bigger than themselves - the Kingdom of God. There is no personal "return" on their investment. They are not supporting programs of which they are a part or that provide personal benefits. But they believe in what we do and in its importance in the purposes of God. Those who support us come from south Florida to Seattle, WA. They are college professors and retirees on fixed incomes. They are teachers and engineers.

But they are all so special to us because of their faithfulness and generosity and encouragement.

Sometimes working in a faith-based ministry like this can be trying. Raising funds probably isn't anyone's idea of a good time. And there are periods when the money is tight and (sometimes) when paychecks don't come on schedule.

But then I think of the blessings of it all. The way that it builds your faith and dependence on God. The way it humbles you as others sacrifice for your work.

So thanks to all who make ConC possible through your prayers, encouragement, and support. It is no exaggeration to say that this ministry would not be here without you!

Thursday, September 22

Back in my high school days, about the best paying summer job that a boy could have was to haul hay. I and my friends would hire ourselves out to area farmers. We would drive through their hay fields on a big truck, loading it full of hay bales that weighed 75-100 lbs. each. We would then drive them to the barn and stack them there. Then we would return to the field for another load. We would typically haul about 1,000 bales a day. It was hard, hot work that involved long days.

Summer days in Kansas are hot and I would have a great "farmer's tan." It didn't take long to work up a sweat and for the itchy hay to start sticking to your skin. But the worst of it was when we were stacking the hay into the top of a hot tin barn on a hot summer afternoon. You would often be up on a stack of hay bales, close to the tin roof of the barn. There wasn't any air circulating. Your arms were scratched up from the hay, your skin was covered with dirt and hay, and you inhaled all that stuff as you worked. (You could blow some amazing things out of your nose when you got out of the barn!) It didn't take long until the only thing you wanted was a drink of water. A big drink of water! Just water! Cool water! Clear water! Water! Your thirst was incredible!

Have you even been thirsty like that? Or hungry like that? So thirsty or hungry that you couldn't get food or drink out of your mind? So hungry or thirsty that you didn't think you could make it another minute?

How often to I hunger for God like that? Do I ever get to the place where you want to know God so much that you can hardly stand it? For a life-style that honors him and models Christ? Or have I let other things dull my hunger for him? Have I let "junk food" - the things I see, hear, read, watch and the values that the world lives by - dull my hunger for God? God promises that if we hunger and thirst for him and for a life that honors him, we will be filled, satisfied, fulfilled.

Most of the time, the problems in our lives come from the fact that we hunger and thirst for the wrong things. Other time we try to satisfy our hunger and thirst by our own means, rather than hungering and thirsting for God and letting him fill our desires. I came across a verse in my time with God this morning that says God "satisfies your desires with good things." (Psalm 103:5) When we try to satisfy our desires our way, we often mess things up. When we hunger and thirst for God and trust him to take care of our desires, he satisfies them with good things.

"Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled."
Matthew 5:6

"As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, O God.
My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When can I go and meet with God?" Psalm 42:1-2

After my last post on rap music, I received a comment from Deepness 07. She said:
Listen to conscience rappers such as Talib Kweli, Common, Az, Kanye West, Nas (you'll be REALLY surprised!)
I confess that I over-generalized the rap genre and appreciate the information and the chance to check out some more positive artists. Thanks for correcting me!

Sunday, September 18

I'm not a devotee of much of the Christian music world. I rarely listen to Christian radio stations and probably couldn't tell the Newsboys from the Backstreet Boys by looking at them. My musical tastes tend to be pretty eclectic. If you were to come by my office, you could hear a variety of musical styles: classic rock, blues, jazz, country, or "oldies", as well as classical and worship music. This has gotten me into "trouble" with some students over the years who have felt that a man of my "position" shouldn't listen to anything that wasn't Christian, especially things like the Eagles or Lynard Skynard.

Recently, I spent some time listening to rap music (it's amazing what you can find on internet radio). I found that I could appreciate some aspects of the "genre"" - the "wordmanship" and rhythm. But I was blown away by a lot of the lyrics - the profanity, the violence, the sexual references. Some of the music I listen to contains references to the same things, but not to that extent and with that vulgarity.

But what probably troubled me most (especially as the father of two daughters) was the way that many (if not most) of the songs portrayed women as objects just there for the gratification of men. The songs didn't reference women as people, just as body parts. They promote a view that women are just here for men's sexual gratification.

I don't want the guys that date my girls to have that view. I don't want my girls to have that view.

And yet rap music is probably our country's most popular genre among teenagers who are forming their social and sexual values and views. And it isn't just popular among urban blacks. It is just as popular among suburban whites and every other demographic.

The music really troubled me. I couldn't tell you what "artists" I listened to, but the message they were proclaiming - and that many of our young people (including Christian young people) are listening to - is poisonous.

Friday, September 16

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about the excitement of a football game day. I'm sure that many have been anxiously awaiting for me to give you an update on how my teams are doing. So here we go:

When last I left you, Springdale High School was about to begin their season against Evangel Christian of Shreveport, LA, who was ranked 18th in the nation. SHS won that game 35-7 and won their next game 46-3. In that game, our first team only played 2:28 minutes in the first half and only ran 14 plays. But they scored five touchdowns on those 14 plays. That bumped SHS to #1 in Arkansas and #14 in the country. Tonight they played Jenks, OK who was ranked #1 in Oklahoma and #23 in the country. SHS won 44-0. Man, they looked good.

The best parts, though, were 1) watching the 30 or so guys who take part in our Thursday night pasta dinner and Bible study perform so well and conduct themselves so well; and 2) having my college roommate and his son, Jim and Moses Miller, come over to the game. Of course, he ministers in Jenks, so they went home depressed!

The Razorbacks, however, aren't faring so well. Though they beat Missouri State (which they should have, since they are a lower division school), they lost to Vanderbilt last week. 28-24. Vanberbilt! They hadn't won a conference game on the road in five years. And tomorrow we play USC - the #1 ranked and two time defending national champions. It could be a long night.

On another note, Mike Big Dawg's (my fantasy football team) is off to an ignoble start - thanks to Brett Favre scoring negative points last weekend. And the ConC Waterdogs lost their first intramural flag football game 12-13 last week. But I'm sure that Coach Eric Johnson will get that team back on the right track so they can again make the playoffs and maybe win another university championship - and get me a t-shirt. They usually give me one for NOT playing, as that enhances their chances of victory dramatically!

Wednesday, September 14

For over 10 years now, I have been a part of something that is pretty rare. Each week during the school year, a group of us meet on Wednesday morning for a time of prayer and encouragement. The rare thing is that the members of the group are all men involved in campus ministry at the UofA. On most campuses, we would probably be "competitors". I know of campuses where you have to sign a doctrinal statement before others will pray with you. Here, we are brothers serving the same God, loving the same Jesus, committed to the same Scripture, and called to influence the same campus.

We could probably find a hundred different things that we disagree about. We come from all across the doctrinal spectrum. We don't do ministry the same way. We often focus on different target groups on campus (some work primarily with international students, others do a lot of ministry with fraternities and sororities, etc.). Some have large groups and some have small groups. Some are on the staff of local churches, others are paid by their denominations, most are raising their own support. We discuss campus issues and strategies for reaching students. But mostly we pray. We pray for each others' ministries, for each others' finances, for each others' families.

Because of schedules and emergencies, not everyone can make it every week. But they are always a part and step right back in whenever they can be there. Over the past ten years, the group has remained pretty stable. It is amazing how long some of us hang around! And if God ever calls me to another place of ministry, this group of men will be one of the things that I will miss the most and that will make it hard to leave. I doubt if any of them know that this site exists. But thank you: Lynn, Ronnie, Warren, Greg, Tom, Bart, Doug, Kevin, Clark, Sean, Tim, Ted, Steve, Jonathan, and Stephen.

Sunday, September 11

One of the problems that we, as Christians, often have is that we get focused on a single issue that makes it hard for us to see the wider spectrum of God's heart and God's will. Most of the issues we focus on are important issues and worthy of our attention, prayers, and efforts. But we often get so narrowly focused that we miss other issues that are important to God and, often, are important for us and those who follow us.

One of those issues is the environment and our stewardship of this planet. Now, I am far from being one who would be labeled an environmentalist or "tree-hugger" and I do believe that some fall into the trap of worshipping the creation rather than the Creator. But I also think that, for the most part, we as Christians have turned a blind eye to many environmental concerns for which we are now paying a price - or for which future generations will pay a price (if Jesus tarries). Just a couple of the issues are our dependence on fossil fuels (hence over $3.00 a gallon for gasoline) and the effects of global warming.

There are probably a lot of reasons why we haven't been concerned about these things. I would encourage you to read this article by Andy Crouch in Christianity Today. (I always enjoy Andy's columns. He usually gets me really thinking about issues that I often don't think about.) Also, just meditate on the passages below. God calls us to be stewards of his creation, and I don't think we have always been very good at that. I also find what Paul writes in Romans to be intriguing. Especially the part about creation, in its frustration, is eagerly awaiting for the "sons of God to be revealed." I wonder if creation is waiting for the children of God (us) to step up and take seriously the stewardship which God has entrusted us. That is why I get excited when Christian students take an interest in environmental sciences - in seriously pursuing the stewardship with which we have been entrusted.

Then God said, "Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move along the ground." So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. God blessed them and said to them, "Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and over every living creature that moves on the ground."
Genesis 1:26-28
The LORD God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it.
Genesis 2:15
The creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed. For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God. We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time.
Romans 8:19-22

Friday, September 9

First, it was telemarketers. Then email spam. Then pop-up ads. And now, BLOG SPAM! I have received at least five "spam" comments on my blog this week. They all follow the same basic format: "Great blog. Check out my site on (take your choice): betting, health supplements, real estate, buying airplanes, etc." Ugh!

Thursday, September 8

What caused Hurricane Katrina? You can get all kinds of responses to that question. Some are saying that it is God's judgment on New Orleans for its wickedness. Others think it is God's wrath on the US for being a part of forcing Jews out of the Gaza Strip. Still others think it is "Mother Nature" crying out that she is in pain because of global warming and our environmental policies.

There is something in us that wants an explanation, a reason for a disaster like this - just like we did for 9/11 and for the Asian tsunami.

But I want to be very cautious of speaking where God doesn't. I don't want to speculate on if God is punishing someone or what his motives might be. If God hasn't explicitly revealed to us what he is doing, then it is probably best that we keep quiet and concentrate on the things we do know for certain: We know that God calls us to respond with compassion, with generosity, and with sacrifice. We know that God calls us who have to share with those who have not.

I was reminded of this passage from Luke 13:1-5::

Now there were some present at that time who told Jesus about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mixed with their sacrifices. Jesus answered, "Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans because they suffered this way? I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish. Or those eighteen who died when the tower in Siloam fell on them - do you think they were more guilty than all the others living in Jerusalem? I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish."

Jesus doesn't give a reason for the tragedies mentioned. He just uses them as a reminder that we need to make sure our lives our in order.

Tuesday, September 6

The images of New Orleans have been before our eyes and on our minds for over a week now. So have the commentators and columnists who have given us their perspectives on the whole thing. And, of course, blogs are full of "insights" from the disaster. I wanted to share these thoughts from Mike Cope, a preacher in Abilene, TX whose blog I read on a regular basis:

"I am upset. At myself.

As I watched all those evacuees from inner-city New Orleans, I realized I had never seen them. I've seen Nola's. And Galatoire's. And Ralph & Kakoo's. And the Cafe du Monde. And Preservation Hall. And the Imax. And the Aquarium. But I somehow have managed in all those trips to avoid seeing the 28% of that great city who live below the poverty line.

My friend Larry James says that almost all American cities are the same way. The difference is that the people never get flushed out. So we just don't see them. We stay in our malls, theaters, restaurants, and stadiums in the better parts of town. And we complain about our taxes and about the sharing of funds for poorer school districts....I'm mad at me. All those trips to New Orleans and I didn't see these people who matter as much to God as my own sons.

I've been reading Luke 16:19-31 this past week, preparing to teach the university class at Highland. And I didn't like what I saw. Because it's hard to find what the rich man's sin is. He didn't hit Lazarus, didn't kick him out; didn't hurl insults at him.

He just ignored him. Lazarus wasn't even a blip on his radar screen.

There's something unique about this parable of Jesus: a person is named! I wonder if it's because Jesus wanted us to know that--in the world of the story--Lazarus is a person. He has a name. God knows him and cares deeply about him."

To me, that's pretty convicting and insightful stuff.

Monday, September 5

In doing some "research" for yesterday's sermon, I came across these two interesting websites. Who would have thought? Maybe there is still a sport I can go "pro" in afterall!
Site features all the professionals, the events, the records (check those out), and, of course, a store for IFOCE merchandise.
Sonya "The Black Widow" Thomas is the most dominant competitive eater at this time - man or woman. And all at 5'5" and 100 lbs!

Friday, September 2

"Congratulations, Joyce" and Football Eve

We received word this evening that Gina's sister, Joyce Cowen, has been named Teacher of the Year for the state of Kansas. Congratulations! She teaches at the middle school in Ft. Scott, KS. All three of the "Winter girls" are exceptional teachers and it is great to see them recognized for that.
Tomorrow the football seasons of my favorite college and high school teams begin. Even though it has been 29 years since my last football season, there is still something about a football stadium on game day that gets me excited. The crowds, the bands, the warm-ups, the game - I don't think there is an athletic atmosphere quite like a football game.
When we first moved to Fayetteville in 1982 and started ConC, we knew about three students. Shelley was from Fayetteville, Terri was from DeWitt, and Scott was from Kansas City. Scott was also on the Razorback football team and was VP of the campus FCA huddle. I began attending the FCA meetings with him, and that connection began a ten year ministry that I had with the Razorback athletic teams. When we moved to Fayetteville, I was only 23 and many of the guys that I worked with were about my same age. We had a 7:00 am Bible study in the athletic dorm that first year and some of my best friends in those days were football players. Scott, Jim, Trey, Kent, Chip, Jeff, Mark, and others. Over the next ten years, I had the chance to work with some exceptional Christian men who served and led with FCA. Eventually a new ministry was formed on campus that was aimed toward athletes. They were able to have several full-time staff members to work with the athletes, so I turned my focus to other areas. But the Razorbacks are still my team and they start their season tomorrow against Missouri State.
And that experience led me to the chance I have today to serve with the Springdale High School Bulldogs. During those FCA days, Rick Schaeffer served as the Sports Information Director at the UofA. He eventually left that position to work with FCA in NW Arkansas. As he thought about ministering to SHS, he remembered the work I did with the UofA FCA group. So he called and asked me to work with the Bulldog football team. This will be my fourth season. I will speak to the full team 6-8 times a year. And every Thursday night during the season, we have a pasta dinner and Bible study time. We had our first of the year last night with about 30 players there. Most who come to this are the seniors and the starters. It is a great time of sharing and prayer, of challenging and messing around.
The Bulldogs start their season tomorrow against Evangel Christian of Shreveport, LA. The game will be televised by Fox Sports. Springdale is ranked number 16 in the country by USA Today and Evangel is ranked number 18. It should be a great game. But Springdale has some pressure on them. Several of them will be playing college ball next year - and some on a national level (two have committed to Arkansas, two to Florida, and one to Notre Dame). The expectations around the state are so high right now that anything less than an undefeated season will be looked at as a failure by many. That's a tough position to be in with team's like Evangel, Jenks, and Ft. Smith Northside on the schedule.

Thursday, September 1

Anniversary 26

Today is our 26th wedding anniversary. That sounds kind of weird. I really don't think we're that old! But to be married for 26 years, to have too kids in college, to have been a part of each other's life for over 30 years. I guess we are getting old.

Gina and I didn't really think ahead when we got married. This is a terrible time of year for a teacher and a campus minister to try and celebrate anything! We are far too busy and far too tired. But that's ok. I'm blessed with a wife who understands those things and the ebb and flow of life in campus ministry. From the middle of August to the end of September, it is almost non-stop. Then I settle down into more consistent 50-55 hour weeks. We both spent the day at work and our evening feeding dinner and teaching about 30 members of the Springdale High School football team. We did go out to dinner last night to celebrate!

I finished up the final pre-marital counseling session for a couple who is getting married in October. I pray that their marriage will be even half as blessed and fulfilling and happy as ours has been for the past 26 years. God has been good to me and has blessed me with a wife far better than I deserve. I definitely married over my head!

"A wife of noble character is her husband's crown."
Proverbs 12:4

"Houses and wealth are inherited from parents, but a prudent wife is from the LORD."
Proverbs 19:14

"A wife of noble character who can find? She is worth far more than rubies."
Proverbs 31:10