For a summary of what I’m hoping to accomplish in this blog series (in the second week of every month of 2018), I recommend reviewing my explanation here.

These days, I travel a lot. I travel for a whole host of reasons.

Ministry Development. I travel in order to stay in regular contact with the teams that work for Impact Campus Ministries. We have ten (going on eleven) teams around the country in places like the Palouse, Salt Lake City, Missoula, Oklahoma, South Bend, Indianapolis, Tampa, Ft. Myers, and Albany. While we get to see each other at conferences one or two times a year, this just isn’t enough time to work on site-specific development for our staff, so I try to travel and spend time with them in person to work on the things that need to be worked on.

Fundraising. Whether it is recruiting new supporters to help us do the work we do or cultivating the relationships of people who already give, the work here never ends. We take any opportunity we can to meet with people while we’re on the road.

Recruiting. Part of my job as President of ICM is looking for more people who would be willing to do that kind of support raising and work in the field of campus ministry. They can be found everywhere, but the most effective recruiting is always done in person.

Partnering with other organizations. At ICM, we believe we are better whenever we get to work with others. The amount that we are able to share ideas and experiences with each other, as well as the opportunity to combine resources, is exciting and provides continual opportunities to grow, improve, and help others do what God has called them to do better. This work is some of the most fun that I get to have while I’m on the road.

Alumni. Just like supporters and recruits — you can find them everywhere! They are doing incredible things and I love taking the opportunity when I’m in their hometown to meet with them and hear about what God is doing in their life.

Expansion. We are always trying to discern where God is leading us to plant next. There are thousands of campuses around our country and hundreds of thousands of college students. All of them are getting ready to go out and make some kind of difference in our world. Where does God want us to go next to help impact the lives of the next batch of graduates? These are things that make us excited at ICM!

Is this hard work? Yes and no. I love the travel and I love the ability to use my gifts to help others and influence the next generation. But it’s hard not to get carried away by all the things that “have to be done” and say no to what needs to be rejected (for now) so I can be present as a husband and a father. When I’m not careful, my travel schedule can be a real burden to my family. I work hard to stay on top of this; at times, I have failed. Unfortunately, it is far too easy to get swept up in the notion that you are needed and important.

I have to work hard to be a good steward in my travel schedule. I have to be a good steward of our organization’s resources. I have to be a good steward of people and their time. And I have to be a good steward of my family. This is hard work and hopefully something that I pursue with character and integrity.

Here is my video diary for A DAY IN THE LIFE: Travel.


Top 12 of CiHD: #10

For a summary of what I’m hoping to accomplish in this blog series (the first week of every month of 2018), I recommend reviewing my explanation here.

We’ll continue our look at the Top 12 Blog Posts at Covered in His Dust by going over my tenth-most-viewed post of all time. With the last post being on 3 John, maybe it shouldn’t be surprising to find 1 John next on the list. The post is titled “1 JOHN: Love and Truth,” which I wrote on September 21, 2016. Much like the post on 3 John, this post discussed the very Johannine (or “of John”) themes of love and truth. You can read the post here.

In this series, as we look at each post, I want to ask three questions: why, what, and what else. Why do I think this post got so many views; why were others drawn to this post? What do I hope people found when they got here; what do I hope they heard? Finally, what else have I learned about this; what else would I say about these ideas?


If I had to guess (which is what this section is all about), I would assume that what drove people to this post was its connection to the writings of John and Essene literature. In the last few decades, there has been an immense amount of study surrounding the Johannine books, John’s style of writing, and the way he utilizes the themes found in his writings. While there is (always) a lot of debate about authorship, these themes seem to show up throughout his gospel, the letters, and even the book of Revelation.

Also of modern interest is the study of the Essenes, arising from the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls. With that find, the archaeological world has become more and more aware of the theology driving those in the Essene community. The preeminence of “sons of light” in their literature is striking and significant, and many have wondered how deeply connected Jesus and his disciples were to the Essene world. It is possible that further study of these connections drove people to my blog (not to mention the disappointment of finding somebody they can’t quote in their papers).


I hope they found some ideas to propel their study forward. We often read letters like 1 John with a matter-of-fact, straightforward approach, without asking the same questions that have become a part of our hermeneutic as we read the Text. Wasn’t John a Jewish rabbi? Was John more like a first-century Jew or a twenty-first-century theologian? How does this impact the way we study and read his writings?

Because of this, context matters. If John is working off of some deep Essene roots, or writing to a world that understands these dominant teachings, then this would be significant. I’m not even sure we have enough knowledge at this point to make that case, but it certainly matters as we think about interpreting John’s authorial intent. But even with a surface level exegesis, we have a clear movement that John is working with here. If we are to be followers of Jesus, then we are to walk as he walked. John says, “Whoever claims to be in him, must walk as Jesus walked.” He also says God is light and so we must be people of the light.

What does it mean to walk in the light? To say that we ought to be like Jesus is easy enough, but what exactly does that mean to John? John will spend the bulk of his letter talking about love. John connects this idea to walking in the light. If someone says they are in the light, but they do not love their brother, they are lying. John connects this idea to walking as Jesus walked. John connects love to light, love to truth, and love to Jesus.

These are the ideas I hope people found when they got here.


There is much in 1 John that I am still trying to nail down. For instance, what is up with 1 John 5:6–8? Not only is the content difficult to deal with, but we have all kinds of manuscript issues throughout history surrounding this passage. Google it and see what I’m talking about. Then get back to me when you have that all nailed down, because I’m still curious. I’ve been handed some great tidbits and good ideas, but I’m still trying to figure it out.

But one of my favorite passages in the New Testament is 1 John 4:12, which says, “No one has ever seen God, but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.” For all of the depth in John’s writing, I have always felt like the miles of depth that lie in this verse come from its profound simplicity. There is this somewhat consistent thought throughout Scripture that God has not or cannot be seen. Why is this? Good western question. Maybe because God is spirit and without form or maybe because of His greatness, purity, and transcendent holiness. Perhaps it’s just because God is far too big to be contained in our world (hence the beauty and mystery of the incarnation).

So we cannot see God in the same way we can see other people or things in this world. Now the apologist in me immediately wants to start talking about all of the evidence for God around us — natural revelation or eternity set in the hearts of men. But John goes on to speak of evidence we far too often overlook. If God is light and if God is love, then when we love each other, people have the opportunity to see God. What a beautiful idea.


PULL UP A CHAIR: Stories on Pursue

For a summary of what I’m hoping to accomplish in this blog series (in the fourth week of every month of 2018), I recommend reviewing my explanation here.

Lowell Kosak is the Director of Staff Development for Impact Campus Ministries; he lives in South Bend, IN with his wife Katie and two sons who are grown and on their own. Besides being a great personal friend, Lowell has a tremendous heart for spiritual health and our personal pursuits of God. His voice rings with passion for God and a care for His heart. I could think of nobody better to share stories about our discussion last week than Lowell.

I am inspired by Henri Nouwen. He compared his yearning to become more intimate with the Father to a trapeze performance. There is a special relationship between the flyer and the catcher. The daredevil flyer swinging high above the crowd lets go of the trapeze and simply stretches out his arms, waiting to feel the strong hands of the catcher pluck him out of the air. The flyer must never catch the catcher; he must wait in absolute trust. For Henri, and for me, there is a yearning to fly in the spiritual life, but only within relationship and yielding more and more into the loving hands of the Eternal Catcher.

More often than not, I am that flyer who is reaching out to try to catch.

God has recently been teaching me a lesson about my intimate pursuit of Him. Just one week before Christmas, my dear Katie suffered a mild stroke. We are so very thankful for God’s gift of grace that we were able to get to the hospital right away and that she suffered no brain bleeding or significant damage. While she is making a complete recovery, the time and extent of her therapy has been slower and more difficult than either of us had anticipated; not because it was medically unexpected—she is making great progress—but that we were not ready for the time, the slow down, and need to wait and be patient.

In just a short amount of time, I was ready to get back to it, to travel, to work, and to achieve. While I teach differently, that our identity does not flow from our accomplishments and production, I certainly was not living out my words. I was proceeding as if I was indispensable. May I confess to you that I like to think that I’m one step ahead of the game and close to arrival. But in reality, in reaching out to catch the Catcher, I’m not trusting God’s story for me. 

Of the importance of the pursuit for the spiritual leader, the vocational pastor… How can I announce joy, peace, forgiveness, and reconciliation unless they are part of my own flesh and blood?

How can I do this?

How can I know this?

I must have need of them and humbly admit my utter emptiness without them. I must surrender my life story to the Gospel, the story of God, and there he meets me.

So joy is birthed from the agony, disappointment, and sorrow that I feel.

True peace only comes when I am honest with myself and the rage and anxiety that comes from deep inside.

As I allow the Holy Spirit to open me up and expose my wretchedness, I also know Jesus’s forgiveness that he freely gives.

While I am so inadequate to take on the mantle of leadership, God reconciles me to Himself and sends me on a mission of bringing His peace and love into the world.

This prayer of Charles de Foucauld has become a prayer for me this year.
Father,I abandon myself into your hands;do with me what you will.Whatever you may do, I thank you:I am ready for all, I accept all.Let only your will be done in me,and in all your creatures –I wish no more than this, O Lord.Into your hands I commend my soul:I offer it to you with all the love of my heart,for I love you, Lord, and so need to give myself,to surrender myself into your hands without reserve,and with boundless confidence,for you are my Father.
I am learning to accept being expendable. I have to become not so important in my eyes that I can and will stop and rest. Sometimes we can’t help but stop in times of crisis, and in that, we have to be ok with the time to just release control and stop. But in day-to-day, week-to-week living, I must also learn to have regular rhythms of work and rest.

In Sabbath, I am letting go, I am waiting and trusting God to do the catching. As I stop, I only hear His voice that calls me His beloved and His son. Paul’s words in Romans ring in my ears:
“So you have not received a spirit that makes you fearful slaves. Instead, you received God’s Spirit when he adopted you as his own children. Now we call him, “Abba, Father.” For his Spirit joins with our spirit to affirm that we are God’s children. And since we are his children, we are his heirs. In fact, together with Christ we are heirs of God’s glory. But if we are to share his glory, we must also share his suffering.” (Romans 8:15–17 NLT)



For a summary of what I’m hoping to accomplish in this blog series (in the third week of every month of 2018), I recommend reviewing my explanation here.

In our last post of this series, we talked about the concept of discipleship and what it means to us at Impact Campus Ministries. I told the story about how we came up with the “in-house” definition of imitating a mentor who imitates JesusWe expected this imitating would require more than just a one-hour-a-week spiritual check-up over coffee. Instead, we would need to be investing our lives into one another, living life together, and mimicking the walks of our mentors.

So what is it, exactly, that we would want them to imitate?

At the end of the post, I suggested that ICM has been, for years, preparing the soil of this work. Our mission statement has been to pursue, model, and teach intimacy with Christ in the context of Christian community on the American university campusI believe this statement provides a fantastic roadmap to the process of discipleship and the things we would want our disciples to imitate. So I want to take a look at the first of these words: PURSUE.

ICM’s founder, Dean Trune, instilled within our organization decades ago the belief that true success is a supernatural byproduct of our passion for God. If we focus on pursuing Him and loving Him with all of our heart, soul, and might, He will produce the fruit in our lives that He wants to bear in the places and ways He wants to bear it. As Jesus taught us in John 15, “Apart from me, you can do nothing.”

For us, that means discipleship begins with our pursuit of God. We create intentional space to pursue Him, commune with Him, and be changed by Him. This creates the outpouring work to impact other people — particularly college students. While this sounds incredibly subjective and mystical on paper, it’s actually incredibly objective and practical in practice. In 2013, I wrote a blog titled “Creating a Space”:
Which leads me to my reflection: I believe the construction of the Tabernacle models an unspoken promise that God has made to His people. If you will create a space in your life for God, He will fill it. The question is, will you create a space?
What would have happened if the Israelites never created the Tabernacle? The fascinating thing is that we run around like chickens with our heads cut off, filling our lives with busyness, and then we are flabbergasted that God doesn’t interrupt our days with His undeniable presence.
If we won’t create a space, why should we expect God to fill it?
But if you do create the space, God will fill it.
He may not fill it the way you want or expect, but if you will create a space in your life — a discipline, an hour of listening, a sabbath rest, a location of retreat — I believe God will fill it.
Yes, it is entirely possible that our pursuit of God can become mechanical, lifeless, legalistic, and dispassioned. But so can everything else we do. The heart of ICM is to be people who intentionally and passionately create a space for God where we are pursuing Him and wanting to know His heart so we can give that, in wisdom, to our students.

And so we read the Bible; we don’t just read it to learn, but we listen for God’s heart and His voice speaking to us. We journal in order to have an objective way to hear from Him. We study the Bible to learn more about its context and be able to interpret it better each day. We memorize Text each week, believing that if we put God’s Word in us, it will not return void.

We fast and pray. We strive to become better and better at praying. We want to intercede on behalf of others and look inwardly, offering prayers of humility, confession, and repentance. We create space for personal worship. We pursue spaces of sabbath, solitude, and silence. For most of us, these pursuits started small and grew over time — as with our passion for God.

But this is our craft at ICM. We want to be experts in spiritual formation. We want to be well aquatinted with the faithful pursuit of knowing God. We want to understand and experience true Bible study and meditation. If anyone has questions about fasting or prayer journaling, we want the world of campus ministry to be able to point toward us (among many others). For us, the daily pursuit of God is not something we do so we can get on to the “important work” of ministry; for us, it is the important work of ministry.

It’s important because it is the most foundational part of discipleship and the foremost thing that we would want imitated. Of course, it can only be imitated if it can be observed. So if we simply pursue God by ourselves, on our own, very little discipleship is going to happen.

This is where the idea of MODEL shows up.


A DAY IN THE LIFE: Student Ministry

For a summary of what I’m hoping to accomplish in this blog series (in the second week of every month of 2018), I recommend reviewing my explanation here.

Student Ministry. As I get further and further into my job as President of Impact Campus Ministries, I find I am spending less and less time with students on campus. This is a natural part of my duty to make the difficult decisions to do my job well and lead the organization with the right amount of focus and dedication. However, working with students is still a part of my job that I get to do, and I really enjoy it.

While I am going to end up on campus one or two times a month to meet with a student or two, most of my student ministry revolves around the discipleship program I started years ago, called BEMA Discipleship. With the exception of some of the pastoral duties that naturally arise from this ministry, it is essentially a teaching ministry that utilizes my spiritual giftedness to lead students and find those special disciples who might work with me on a closer level (more on this in a later post).

So what is BEMA? The ministry is situated around a “flipped classroom.” For those of you who may not be familiar with the term, a flipped classroom takes advantage of the technology at our disposal to put the class content online, allowing us to use our valuable “class time” to focus on application and discussion. It’s more of a lab experience than a lecture. While that may sound really impressive, I still don’t do it as well as I should. I’m a work in progress!

We start by recording the weekly podcast; Brent Billings helps me produce a high-quality, top-notch recording that we publish as a public podcast. Listeners can find it on iTunes or any other podcast player. Students listen to the podcast, take notes, and come to class ready to discuss the questions that arose as they studied the material. It’s a really cool thing to be a part of.

Since the podcast has gone public, we’ve had groups start up all around the country. I’ve had the opportunity to meet groups full of people who I’ve never met before as I go about my travels. It’s an incredible experience to see what God does with this decentralized, flipped classroom idea.

People are able to read about this ministry, find the podcasts, stay up to date on scheduling, and even find/start groups around the country by visiting our website here.

Embedded below is a video diary I made that shows the process of making the podcasts, getting ready for discussion groups, and even being at a discussion group in Moscow or Pullman.


Top 12 of CiHD: #11

For a summary of what I’m hoping to accomplish in this blog series (the first week of every month of 2018), I recommend reviewing my explanation here.

As we continue our look at the Top 12 Blog Posts at Covered in His Dust, we’ll now look at my eleventh-most-viewed post of all time. This one happens to be titled “3 JOHN: Diotrephes,” which I wrote on September 29, 2016. Obviously, the post is about the third letter of John, and the big idea is the interaction of truth and love — two persistent elements of all three letters. You can read the post here.

In this series, as we look at each post, I want to ask three questions: why, what, and what else. Why do I think this post got so many views; why were others drawn to this post? What do I hope people found when they got here; what do I hope they heard? Finally, what else have I learned about this; what else would I say about these ideas?


To be honest, I’m a little surprised this post (and the next one we’ll look at) made the list. I’m assuming there were an awful lot of Bible teachers or students doing a study on 3 John and my Google-based blog jumped to the top of their search results. But I could be wrong. I’ve never ceased to be surprised at the posts that people resonate with and enjoy.

It could be that people found a post that talked about the preeminence of love and its importance — even in the midst of truth.


I think the last two paragraphs of the post emphasize what I hope readers took away:
The letter of 3 John always serves as a reminder to me of a couple realities. First, there have always been and always will be people who oppose the work of the gospel and our call to be people of love in the world. For whatever reason (and there are often many), there are those who stand opposed to work that would kiddush HaShem. But second, this letter reminds me, yet again, that the way of truth is not truth because some abstract, absolute truth exists. The way of truth is truth because it is the way of love. 
I know it’s very popular to say that “truth without love isn’t truth and love without truth isn’t love.” That may be true, but the Bible does not teach this idea directly. Yet the idea is undeniably evident, especially in the writings of John, that love is the foundational element, and you will find truth within love. Love always has truth in it.
I hope people found a little bit of encouragement not to give up or grow weary in the way of love. The Theology Police and Truth Mongers can be a brutal bunch, making sure that our desire to love our neighbor as ourselves is held in check. Love is fine, they say, as long as we never compromise on the truth that comes first. But this isn’t what John teaches us, nor what Jesus called us to. We are to love. He commanded it, explained it, modeled it, and triumphed with it. May we never forget it.

I chuckle when I think of the last paragraph because of how my editors and I labored over the wording of the last two sentences. I still love the idea! People hold truth and love in perfect balance. “You can’t have one without the other,” they assert. But this isn’t what I see when I read teachings like 1, 2, and 3 John (or even Paul, for that matter). While it is entirely true that truth must have love in order to be true, I still believe the scandal is this teaching is that if you have love, you will always have at least some truth, because love is truth.


I want to touch on why I think this idea is so uncomfortable for us westerners. For Greek, western thinking, if I asked you where the power lied — in the truth or in the medium — we would say that the power lies in truth. Let me take the use of words as an example. Is the power in the words, or is the power in the truth the words are communicating? We would say the truth; the words are simply the medium, the conduit, the vehicle for the thing with the power. We have sayings in our culture, like “sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” I mean, words are just words — they have no power.

And yet, two seconds of reflection proves that statement to be asinine. Words do hurt me. Words are more than just conduits — they are powerful. Easterners (particularly the people of the Bible) saw the question differently. They believed the power lies in the medium itself. They point to the creation of the world and they point out how God spoke the world into existence. Words — they insist — have incredible power. The vehicle matters more than the passenger. It’s not that truth doesn’t matter at all, it’s that truth means nothing if it’s not taken there through an empowered conduit.

This is begging to become a piece on the power of word (or Word), but I digress. The same point is in play here. Does the power lie in the truth or the love? Again, I think we find that the power lies in the conduit of that truth. In fact, just like the Word of God, the medium (love) can cover a multitude of sins (truth/misunderstanding). In a theological world that has been on a truth tirade since the dawn of postmodernity, I think the teachings from John couldn’t be more timely.


PULL UP A CHAIR: Stories on Discipleship

For a summary of what I’m hoping to accomplish in this blog series (in the fourth week of every month of 2018), I recommend reviewing my explanation here.

Tommy White is the Lead Campus Minister for Impact Campus Ministries in Salt Lake City, UT. He works with students at the University of Utah, Westminster, Salt Lake Community College, and others. One of his favorite things is working with the Utes basketball team as chaplain. Tommy has had a great time building on his efforts in discipleship; since that was our topic from last week's post, I asked him to share some stories for our Pull Up a Chair series. 

Entering this last semester, I was praying for any opportunities to help a male student in pursuing God in a more personal way. I didn’t want to throw it our there for the masses, nor did I want to manipulate a student into saying “yes” when he maybe didn’t really want to. Sometime in September, within the same week, two guys showed interest in going deeper and so I challenged them with a vision for just that. A couple weeks later, another student wanted to take his relationship with Jesus to a deeper level.

The first student, Errol, is a junior at the University of Utah. I met him two years ago and have spent many coffees and lunches since then talking about spiritual things. He was a ballet major, then switched to a metallurgy major. He’s super smart and very scientific (as is his girlfriend). While a very deep thinker, there was a lot of room for him to grow in spending “alone time” pursuing God. We’ve met on campus and at a coffee shop twice a week for almost two months. (I also see him two or three other times a week, so we are super connected.)

As I did with the other two guys, at the outset, I explained
  1. there are many tools for pursuing God.
  2. this isn’t about being good enough, but about learning to love God intentionally.
  3. I am going to model for you some different ways to connect with God.
  4. this is about a personal relationship, so in all we do individually, we want to make it a conversation with God, not about God.
  5. this modeling might feel weird at first, but that’s how we learn, by someone showing us how to do something.
  6. God is Spirit, so we need to train ourselves to connect with Him “in spirit,” which is hard to do.
With Errol, I’ve modeled for him (by sitting next to him or walking with him) how to journal your thoughts, intercessory prayer, Scripture memory, Scripture typing, solitude, and personal worship. I’ve in no way mastered these, nor am I consistent, but I am pursuing God and moving forward, and I believe my disciple sees that.

Luke, the second disciple, is a senior at Westminster College. We meet on Wednesday afternoons. His schedule is intense and overly full already, so we didn’t try to add anymore to his plate for the time being. One seemed hard enough for Luke. (I also guarded my day off, which played into why we had a hard time making a second day work. This semester, I think we should make a better effort at getting a second day down.) We met inside the cafeteria as well as outside in the courtyard. With Luke, we get sidetracked sometimes and talk about relationships or some other important topic that is on his mind. This discipleship relationship is more flexible, though we cover most of the same disciplines as with Errol.

Tyson, the last guy, is an electronic music student at a local engineering school. I meet with Tyson on Mondays at 6 am. Our time started out more rushed, so we talked about that and tried to make more time. We met some in the afternoons, but it seemed our time wasn’t as consistent. With Tyson, we covered most of the same disciplines.

With each of these guys, my intention was to pursue God through modeling disciplines. As you read above, it didn’t always happen that way. This next semester, I will be more vigilant in sticking to the plan. There are plenty of other times we meet and can talk there. I want to focus on why we’re meeting for these one-on-one-times.

We had a final pizza get together in mid-December where the guys discovered who the other two are. It was one of the best times I’ve had. We talked about our memory verses, what we appreciated about the format, and what we learned. By far, the most common feedback from those three guys was that typing made the difference. Whether it was prayer, journal thoughts, or typing the Word of God, all three said typing made it so personal and helped clarify their thoughts and organize what was floating around in their heads. I was really pumped that they were that impacted! Each of them also tried to strengthen their own personal times throughout the week.

One distraction, at times, was noise or activity around our meeting together. Sometimes it didn’t seem to make a difference, but other times, other people’s conversations got in the way. That’s something to consider for the future.

Finally, this adventure showed me that I have a long way to go in being consistent in my pursuit.