Heading to Colorado

It’s time again for our biannual Cru trip to Fort Collins, Colorado. We will be part of training and equipping 200 new Cru missionaries, preparing another 150 through cross-cultural training for global assignments, and helping another 1,000+ expand their knowledge of the Bible and develop leadership and ministry skills.

The training tracks begin June 12, but the conference team shows up early, and a few more of us show up first to begin the setup. I (Karl) will start driving on Memorial Day so that I can start work on June 1. Liesl and Anja will fly out the following weekend, since Anja will still have finals after I leave.

Once again, I’ll be leading a small tech team that helps keep everything running smoothly. Liesl will help out with my team and coordinate worship for the conference team meetings, and Anja is going to work in the Cru-run coffee house.

From July 16 to 24, all the Cru staff in the US will gather for “Cru17”, our time for training, connection, and encouragement. This is also a time when many staff who don’t have a technology person near them bring their broken equipment and tech questions to my team.

Please pray that our team serves them well. And pray that everyone leaves Colorado better equipped to serve God and to be used by Him to draw many to Himself.

Engaging Friends and Family

Students from all over the US traveled to Panama City Beach, Florida for Big Break, a week of growing in their relationship with God and learning to share their faith. They spent time engaging with people on the beach, and also by sending the Falling Plates video (www.fallingplates.com) to friends and family and listening to their experiences of Jesus so far in their lives. One student, Allison, experienced something incredible…

“My best friend from home came from a Christian family so I thought, I don’t know if I need to text her or not and so I texted her the link to the video. She texted me back and said ‘I literally just cried. I’ve been feeling really hopeless and horrible lately. And last night I prayed for a sign that I’m still worth it, that I’m still meant to live, and that God still cares for me and today you sent that to me.’ This is insane. I’m literally in tears.”


We can praise God for how He is constantly at work in the lives of people, no matter what they’re going through.

We got this story from one of Keynote’s former Interns, Erica, who now works on digital strategies globally.  Feel free to share the Falling Plates video with your friends, too!

Here is the official update from the whole 3 weeks of Big Break Conferences from our staff who were there:

Big Break was filled with God moments. Some we had the sweet experience of watching unfold before our eyes and others we only heard about, but we know that lives were changed for eternity. The students were reminded that meeting with the Father is essential. They were given time to sit and listen to Jesus. They heard that ministry is pointless if it doesn’t overflow from our moments with the Father; those moments lead to an outpouring of the gospel as our relationship with Him overcomes our distractions and fears. Lives were forever changed.

Then there were the afternoons of outreach. Outreach opportunities happened both on the beach and over many social media platforms. In our three weeks, students and staff initiated 11,170 spiritual conversations digitally. 3,024 of them turned into gospel conversations, with 104 making a decision to follow Christ. And that’s not all! 601 future appointments were set up with a friend or family member. Dream and pray with us about what God can do in those 601 appointments!

Don’t forget the beach conversations! 3,338 conversations were initiated on the beach this year and 1,470 turned into gospel conversations, with 222 making a decision to follow Christ!

One last highlight was prayer. From a night of prayer and speakers emphasizing the importance of prayer, to a large prayer room that facilitated learning and praying every day from morning until night, prayer was a significant and integrated part of the conference. Students loved it and many communicated they are returning to campus with a vision and heart to pray!  (A bunch of our Indy staff worked these conferences and designed the prayer room! It looked fantastic and clearly made a difference in how the students connected with God.)

Thanks for praising God with us for all He’s doing!

Many around us are struggling

This is one of those months where I feel burdened to share with you all something very hard. Please bear with me as my thoughts are still processing what’s happened. In the last two months we have had two believers we know take their own lives. One was a complete shock to just about everyone and the other, which happened yesterday, was less so.

I want to talk about this because we, the church, need to understand that this happens to believers. We need to understand that it can happen to any of us given enough difficult circumstances. We are all capable of doing the unthinkable.

Secondly, I want us to be ready to be helpful to each other, to be a safe place to help each other so that this happens less.

In light of that I wanted to talk about some of the causes of suicide, chiefly mental illness. I think mental illness is hard for all of us to understand and so we can shy away from helping out of fear of doing it wrong, or just lack of understanding what’s happening. I know I feel this way.

However, we can add pain to people who are suffering through our beliefs and choices. We need to understand that much mental illness is not stemming from sin, it’s more a condition of our fallen world and broken bodies.

I had a coworker who loved the Lord whole heartedly, yet was bi-polar. He was a great role model for me to understand, because I watched how he handled his condition and I knew how he loved the Lord even when his mind and body chemistry betrayed him. For example, one time when he was manic he stared into the sun looking for Jesus to come, burning spots into his retinas. Since he knew he at times would not be able to reason properly, he had a network of friends and coworkers who had his permission to intervene if his meds got imbalanced. They had learned what to look for and he cooperated as best he could. We can learn a lot from his and their example.
In other cases, such as the man who ended his life yesterday, sin is involved. Here’s an excerpt of the email he sent out yesterday to his friends. After doing something really bad that became public he said,

“In the months that followed, I felt myself slipping emotionally and spiritually. I tried to reach out to a few close friends and I never heard from two of them again. Having friends turn their back on me probably hurt the most and I went into a shell. I didn’t want any of my other friends to hurt me, so I didn’t tell anyone else. Perhaps this wasn’t smart on my part, but it’s what happened.
I just don’t have any more fight in me. The thought of finding a new career, interviewing for new jobs, and having to explain why certain things were on my record was just too much for me to handle. Don’t feel bad for me. My story is one of self-inflicted wounds, both figuratively and here at the end, literally. I’m so sorry for the pain this action will cause others, especially those closest to me.

What is heartbreaking is seeing how many responded instantly to this email with love and pleas for him not to follow through, but it was too late.

We, as believers, will sin. And we’ll watch friends back away from the Lord. Or we’ll back away from them because they do something abhorrent. But Christ came to save sinners. We are recipients of this and we are his body to reach out to sinners with truth and grace covered in love. Oh that we wouldn’t weary of doing what is good and right! I’m preaching to myself.

He gave up because of shame and isolation. We need to create environments personally and in our church communities that counteract that. I think it’s especially hard for men, since opening up emotionally and being vulnerable is even harder for them. We won’t catch everyone who chooses the path of hiding sin and isolating, but if we consciously try to make safe connections with each other, it will help.

Lastly, we need to know when to call for help. The national suicide hotline is 1-800-273-8255. We also can have our churches research local resources and well trained Christian counselors so that we are ready to help fully swiftly. Thank you all for bearing with me and trusting God to work in and through us.

Marriage Tune-up

Napa, CA Weekend to Remember, February 3-5, 2017

“We have been broken for several years. This weekend we were hoping to rekindle our faith and marriage, or part ways. What you shared, and what you shared personally, helped us to know that we could write a new story together”.
– Wife, married 25 years

“It has reminded me of things I already knew but allowed myself to neglect through a pile of excuses. This has damaged my vertical relationship. I have been in a spiritual low for a while. This has hurt everyone I hold dear. I can’t waste any more time. None of my excuses hold water.”
– Husband, married 4 years

“Through the speakers sharing their experience with bringing porn into marriage, it opened up conversations we’ve never been able to have. I’m thankful that light was shed on this area”.
– Wife, married 4 years

“I’m so glad that my mom pretty much “forced” my fiancé and I to attend this conference. My mom registered us after we got engaged – without our consent. This was probably the best surprise she’s done for us. This weekend was very informative and really gave us tools to prepare for our marriage. I didn’t know these conferences existed. I’m also happy that there were areas that focused on “pre-married” and not just married/re-married couples”.
– Female, pre-married

As you can see, marriages have many pitfalls, from wrong expectations to porn use to poor communication to selfishness. And the poor communication isn’t always just with your spouse, but with God himself. Our marriages are precious, and worth the effort of saving and making work well as God designed. Karl and I have been fortunate to attend the Weekend to Remember several times over the years and we just registered online to go to the Columbus weekend this fall, because it’s worth it.

And thanks to FamilyLife’s generosity, we are able to offer you the opportunity to attend the Weekend to Remember marriage getaway at 75% off the regular registration rate! (now thru December 2017).

The getaway will feature two and a half days of practical teaching and insights from the nation’s top marriage experts, along with plenty of time to relax and enjoy stress-free time alone.

To take advantage of this opportunity, simply visit FamilyLife.com/Locations to select a date and location that works for you. Then enter promo code: CruThanks at checkout to receive your discount.

If you have any questions and if you decide to attend, let us know. We’d love to pray for you during that weekend.

Theology Matters

Hey, y’all! Hope your year has been starting out well. Ours has been the normal, de-holiday the house, get back to school after getting over a cold and getting back to the normal swing of things at work and church (probably just like you ☺). One new thing for us is that Anja is in drivers ed! No road work yet, but that will come soon enough.

Another new thing is that I’m in a class, too, not just Anja. Cru staff can join straight out of college without a seminary degree. In light of that, Cru has all of our staff take condensed theology classes, a total of eleven, for what we call the Institute of Biblical Studies certification. These classes are a big part of what happens every summer, especially the years we’re in Colorado – that’s part of what the Conference team we work on makes happen.

Other times a ministry location brings in a professor and many staff in that region (like Indy ☺) take an intensive one week version of the class. This happened at our office last week with our staff delving into the depths of physics and philosophy and so much more as they learned more about Apologetics (which means testifying and providing reasoned defense, not apologizing like it sounds).

In recent years, technology has made it possible to do the classes online. Normally I’ve taken one every year or so in Colorado, but last year Karl and I did the apologetics class online together (and I’m so glad we did it together, it is a lot to chew on and really made my brain hurt!). So now I am taking my very last class! It’s about Systematic Theology, focusing on God, the Bible and the Holy Spirit. I thought I’d share just a tiny bit of what I’m learning. Maybe it will whet your appetite to study it, too.

Systematic Theology answers this: What does the whole Bible teach us today about any given topic? It treats topics in a carefully organized way, it is gospel-centered, and seeks to accurately handle all the relevant Bible passages.

All people live by some theology, some view of God and the world, and believers formulate their own understanding as we learn more about God, but much of what we do is disjointed. That can lead to picking and choosing a scripture out of context, misunderstanding the whole of God’s character or His expectations of us.

Since we are both finite in our ability to retain all of our knowledge and we still have the effects of sin marring our comprehension and desire to follow God perfectly, we all need to continually examine what we think we know and compare it to the whole of God’s word. But, since our time is finite as well as our minds, doing an entire, complete search of each topic every time – well it just wouldn’t happen.

That’s where studying Systematic Theology can help. It’s a resource that you can use to check your personal theology against and it can point you to the Biblical sources for your own research. And ultimately, the more you genuinely know and understand God and his character, the more you will love and obey Him and the more abundantly you’ll see/understand Him active in your life. We’re using Systematic Theology by Wayne Grudem if you want to check it out. He designed it so you can study topically instead of needing to read it all at once or in a specific order. It is meaty, so you have to think, but I’ve found that my awe of God grows every time I put the effort in to digest some of it. This is a way we can love God with our minds as well as our heart and soul and strength. I hope you enjoy it!