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.