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Rejoice in the Lord always! I will say it again; Rejoice!

A lot has been happening this month, in the ministry, in the lives of our students, and in my own heart as I continue to learn what it means to be a missionary and a minister of the Lord. I can't wait to share all of it with you. I pray that you find it encouraging and ultimately that God is praised and exalted because of it. Ephesians 3:20-21 "Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen."
These are just a few of the guys in my core group that I get to lead every week! Peter, Jacob, and Saurav. I love each one of these guys dearly and I so enjoy getting to meet with them every week and hearing their heart. I meet one on one every week with Jacob, we've been reading through a book called "Experiencing God" this semester recently and it has been very helpful in aligning our hearts to seek His will in our lives and just developing a deeper relationship with God. But Jacob and I have recently switched books to start reading "Master Plan of Evangelism" which is a book that has very been very influential to me in the past 2 years of my life. In "Master Plan of Evangelism" the author does a case study on the life of Jesus asking the question "How did Jesus do evangelism?" and "How can we emulate that in our own context?" Jacob loves God  deeply but for Jacob, reaching out ot others and being the initiator of friendships has never come naturally. Please pray for us as we read through this book together so that we might learn the value of spending intentional times with the people God has placed in our lives so that we might be ambassadors of Christ to them and our lives might be a living sermon for those individuals so that they can look at and see someone living first and foremost for God. 
Some of the guys in our ministry coming out to join me for Disc Golf!
 Just about every week I maintain upwards of what some might consider a full schedule of work. (Luckily I love what I get to do!) But it is often difficult for me to detach from ministry responsibilities and just rest. One thing that has been incredibly restful to me over the last several years of my life is disc golf. Being outdoors, walking with friends, and tossing a disc around. Something about that is therapeutic for me to a certain degree. But last year I had a really difficult time finding guys to come out and play with me! It can be a time commitment, a full course can take 2 hours to finish. And it's not as active as some sports enthusiasts might enjoy. So last year even when I was able to go play disc golf last year sometimes it was alone and while it was still restful I also couldn't help but see it as sort of without value if I wasn't able to also spend that time with others. But I've just been really encouraged recently as several of the guys in our ministry have started to express interest in coming out with me! So now I'm able to layer some of the things I love most. I still get to go out and play disc golf, but at the same time I get to kick back with some of these guys that I invest in every week and just relate to them as friends and not just as a pastor. It's been a real blessing to my life and as you can see in the picture, they all seem to be enjoying themselves as well.
Some of the guys who help with our sound team every week (Cody, Jacob, Truett)
One of my main responsibilities every week is making sure that our large group Thursday Night Fellowship meeting go off without a hitch. Part of that is setting up the sound team for the worship team. In order to do that, myself and several other selfless students show up to FOCUS an hour and a half early and help set up! I just wanted to post this and write about it partially to honor these guys but also just so that you can see what kind of commitment the students have towards this community. I don't know of many college students who will take an hour and a half of their day to move chairs around and set up sound equipment every week for free, but these guys all do, because they've bought into college ministry and want to help others come and have a place to worship and experience community. I'm so thankful for the students that God has placed into our ministry and I'm so grateful that they are so willing to serve their fellow brothers and sisters in Christ on such a consistent basis.
One of the most exciting events of the school year is our once a semester Pizza Theology! During Pizza theology our students who are interested in becoming better learners will attend and sit and listen and engage in a four hour seminar over a particular topic. In the past some of the topics that have been addressed are Thinking Critically as a Christian, Hearing From God, Sexuality and Identity, and this years seminar was over Race. These seminars are highly educational, as we will bring in professors or pastors who have done great amounts of research on the topic to come and share with our community. Beyond that we will often have students come and personally share how the topic has affected them for a portion that we call "voices from our community" The time together is educational, pastoral, edifying, and engaging. Pizza Theology is one of my favorite times of the year and I always come with a more holistic way of thinking about a certain topic. This years Pizza Theology was recorded along with the voices from our community and can be found on our website and you are always welcome to listen on your own time and get a feel for what our students are learning as they grow in maturity in the faith! https://anyfocus.org/resources/media-page/ 
(Side note, I've delivered three sermons this month, two of which are currently also on that website for you to listen to if you'd like! I'm working on uploading the third, but technology is rarely friendly to me, maybe some of you can relate)

This blog post is already kind of getting long, but stick with me, I've just got a few more things to share :)

I wanted to share what I've been thinking about in my own devotional time recently and then also some good news from our community! If you'll notice the title of this blog is from Philippians chapter 4 which is something I've been reflecting on a lot as we are working through the book of Philippians in our core group right now. The full version of the section of that letter starts in verse 4 and goes through verse 9. It says 

"Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you."

I always think I used to skim over this verse because I assumed it applied only to those who regularly dealt with anxiety as I interpreted it. And because I did not feel that anxiety was a normal part of my days, I must have been doing pretty well in this area. But as I've been reflecting on my own time with God I've been convicted that far too often my time in relating to the Lord is remorseful, full of repentance. And I believe wholeheartedly that we as followers of Christ should be remorseful of our sin and repentant, (Luke 18:9-14) but in the consistency that I was bringing it to God with nothing else. No rejoicing, very little acceptance of grace, and very little affirmation of what God is doing not only in my life, or the lives of those I'm directly interacting with, but also in the world. I became very convicted that it may have been a long while since I truly rejoiced. Concerned with my own performance, or the worries and troubles of those that I minister to, I forgot to praise God for who He is, what He's done, and what He's doing. I am trying to make an active effort to rejoice in the Lord, and as a result become someone who more fully experiences the peace of God again, the peace that transcends all understanding. I would love to invite you to join me in this practice. Even if it's just today, find a reason to rejoice, and join me in bringing Glory to our father, and not JUST  a repentant heart.

One thing that I rejoice over is that one of the young men in our ministry has recently made the decision to get baptized! His name is Jared Huang, and he's seriously one of the sweetest guys you'll ever meet. 
Jared proud of a Christmas decoration he made several months ago!
Just to share a little bit of this student's heart and how God has used this ministry to impact him, I wanted to share a video that he put together himself over winter camp from this last January.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=92j7iYh-2ro

And that's it! Beyond that, in my personal life. Hayli and I finished going through the pre engagement counseling that is offered through our church about a month ago. And since then we made the decision to get engaged! I asked her two days ago and she said yes!

 Please be praying for us as we move towards marraige, that our relationship would be ultimately Christ centered and that I would learn to love her as Christ loves the church. Thank you again for all of your support and love and prayers, I look forward to seeing you again soon and catching up on how you are. Always feel free to call or message me if you ever want to call or ask questions, or request prayer, or anything of the sort. I love you all and I'm eternally grateful for you!

In Christ, Austin.






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  2. Wow, so many exciting things!
    I actually read that passage in Philippians 4 yesterday and also was very struck by Paul's encouragement to rejoice. Thanks for helping me keep thinking through that!

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