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Spring Update from Rice University!

Hello ministry partners!  I hope you are all having a fantastic 2020 year so far. 
As I reflect back on the semester so far, I am blown away by all that has already happened.  As soon as the school year started, RUF began moving full speed ahead.  Honestly, I was not expecting such a fast pace, and it has been a pretty overwhelming season of ministry.  However, while ministry has been a bit hectic lately, beautiful kingdom work is certainly happening.  I see the Lord at work in the lives of students.  I see him drawing new students into Christian community. I see him drawing old students deeper into his word.  I see God’s hand very clearly orchestrating everything as He is superintending it all and continues to use RUF as a light on campus.  

Campus Minister Transition.
One of the things that has made the beginning of this semester more hectic than it would normally be is that RUF at Rice is currently in a state of transition. Our Campus minister, Juan Carlos, after serving faithfully for the past five years has moved on to a new job as the family pastor at Christ Evangelical Presbyterian Church right here in Houston.  Soon after being placed at Rice University, before I had even moved to campus, I was informed that Juan Carlos would probably only be my campus minister for one semester.  So I knew this was coming.  Even still, I miss him. A lot. Juan Carlos was an incredible boss, mentor, and friend and I am so thankful that I was able to work with him specifically. 
Providentially, the Lord prepared me for this very transition during my time as an undergrad member of A&M’s RUF.  During my junior year, A&M’s RUF went through a very similar experience as Ben Hailey, who had been our campus minister until then, was called to plant a church.  For the next year, RUF was run primarily by students and our intern at the time, with a large amount of help from the pastors of my home church Westminster Presbyterian.  Having experienced this transition as a student, I know what it feels like to be a student during a band-aid year.  This knowledge has truly been a gift from the Lord as it has allowed me to better empathize with students as well as reassure them. I now see how God was, even then, preparing me to minister to students here at Rice University.
Now with Juan Carlos transitioning into his new position as a Pastor at CEPC, an RUF committee from the Houston Metro Presbytery is seeking to find and hire the next RUF Campus Minister for Rice’s RUF.  In the interim, the responsibility for running the ministry falls primarily on myself, my co-intern Breanna, and the stalwart group of college students that make up Rice’s RUF ministry team.  Please be praying for them and for me as we try to keep RUF running smoothly until next semester when we will meet a new campus minister.  
Snapshot of the year so far…
Despite a bit of extra stress and a few minor miscues that are to be expected during a transition year like this, RUF has gone incredibly well so far this semester.  We started the semester strong with an RUF overnighter the first weekend that went very well.  We had great attendance and Breanna and I both were given opportunities to teach. I taught on justification and Breanna, on sanctification. Enthusiastically, students engaged with the material, and we had great discussion about these two key biblical concepts as we looked at God’s word together.  Not all the students in that discussion were Christian so this was also an evangelistic opportunity.
I also had the privilege of bringing four RUF students with me to a Men’s retreat where we heard Derek Thomas, a distinguished pastor and seminary professor, teach on the book of Job.  His messages were fantastic and sparked great conversations on the car ride home. 
We have continued to have 3 weekly Bible studies along with weekly worship and preaching at our large group meetings on Wednesday nights. We also have Friday night fellowship every other Friday night.
Growing in Grace.
One huge praise that I have is that the longer I have been here, the deeper my relationships with guys have grown.  As I get to know these young men better, I have gotten the opportunity to further enter their worlds.  This is sometimes hard and often messy but always beautiful.  Increasingly, I am getting opportunities to engage with students about the hard struggles of this life with college and talk about the hope that Jesus has purchased for us by His blood. As your relationship with someone increases so too does your ability to point them to both their need of Jesus and His infinite love for them.  These young men are asking big questions, and many are seeking to better understand what it looks like to follow Christ on the college campus. It has been a huge encouragement to me to see how the Lord is actually seeking them.  God is not reluctant to save, nor does He stand aloof, but rather constantly, He draws broken sinners to himself. He redeems them, and begins conforming them, relationally, to the image of His Son. 
Role Model or Savior…
“Yeah, I would consider myself a Christian, but I just don’t believe all that stuff about Jesus’s redemptive work on the cross.  Like it just seems unnecessary to me.  I think if God has a problem with anything I do, He would just forgive me because He is a God of love.”   
These words set off alarm bells in my head as I sat across from one of the guys I had been meeting with since early last semester.  Over the course of the previous semester we had become friends and I had grown to really respect his intellect as well as his kindness.  Until this moment, I had not really been sure if he was a Christian or not.  I knew he considered himself to be one, but he had also said some things occasionally that made me wonder if He believed the gospel.  So, this time when we got lunch I had decided to find out.  “What do you think about Christianity? What does the gospel mean to you?” I asked.  
Initially everything He said sounded good as he explained that he definitely believed in God and that his relationship with God was the source of deep meaning in his life.  But then as he finished, almost as an afterthought, “but I just don’t believe all that stuff about Jesus’s redemptive work on the cross…”.  This statement though said in a trivial tone, caught all my attention.  “I am actually gonna push back on that statement,” I responded.  “You see, the whole gospel and, in fact, the whole of your eternity hangs in the balance based on who Jesus is.” I continued, “You and I completely disagree on who Jesus is. Because I believe in Jesus as my Savior, and what I am hearing you say is that you don’t see any reason why the cross is necessary!  So, you do not think you need Jesus to be your savior.  The most important question you will answer in your whole life is this one, is Jesus my Savior?”
I then asked him if he would be willing to look at Ephesians 2 with me.  He was willing so we read.  We talked about how the passage agreed with him that God is loving but yet also makes it very clear that He is also a God of Justice.  We talked about the fact that God’s standard is the law written in his word. Ephesians 2 actually says that we have broken his law and are now dead in trespasses and sins.  Our sin separates us from God and means we are justly deserving of condemnation and death.  But Ephesians goes on to lay out the good news that Jesus’s blood is able to bring us near to God.  He died in our place taking the wrath we deserved.  Jesus was treated like a sinner so that we who are sinners could be treated by God as sons.  He thought this was all interesting and said he would think about it.  He also agreed to read through the book of Ephesians with me!  We have continued to meet this semester and each time we meet we talk about the gospel.  Please pray that through the power of the Holy Spirit that this student will come to saving faith in Christ Jesus. 

But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.                  
                                                                                                      ~ Ephesians 2:4-10
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