‘CSF Friends Students’

The Kingdom of Good News

Thursday, September 22nd, 2016
austinschmidt

Austin Schmidt is a Junior at Friends University majoring in Health Science and Christian Spiritual Formation. Originally from Hutchinson, KS, he now attends Northridge Friends Church in Wichita.

Attending Friends University and engaging in the Christian Spiritual Formation (CSF) program has been one of the most formative experiences I have undergone in my life. Ultimately it was this decision that brought me into a relationship with the Friends Church. Since that time I have had some incredible opportunities to see the power of God at work in the church. These include attending Friends Summit 2014 in San Diego, Spring Invasion in Mexico, and reGENERATION conference in Tulsa. All of these have been unique formative experiences. They have also helped to open my eyes to a bigger picture of the church. I have also had the opportunity to know some amazing men and women of God within the Friends denomination. I am encouraged to get to be a part of such a community. However, as I am continuing to learn, the Kingdom of God is not limited to a denomination, race or nation. The concept of the Kingdom has been continually discussed in one of the CSF courses that I’m currently taking. The course is taught by Dr. James Bryan Smith and is called “Living as an Apprentice of Jesus.”

Each person has their own view of what the Gospel means. One of the most troubling results of this is that some individuals have an incomplete view of the Gospel. They base their thinking off what they want to think or what they have been told to believe. As a Christian, our aim is to continually pursue Christlikeness in our own lives. Extending this desire into every portion of our lives will ultimately help to find the gospel-centered life that Jesus promised and wants us to experience.

Perhaps one of the most common misconceptions about the Gospel is a focus on Jesus’ death so that we can go to heaven when we die. This is not a false gospel, but it is an incomplete picture. Often times this perspective leads to lives that are motivated by guilt, fear, and shame. These are effective motivators, but they are not ones that we have been made to live out of. Another downside of this perspective is that it can lead to just managing our sin filled lives until we get to heaven. This is another unsatisfactory view of how life is to be lived as a Christ follower. It seems like this version of the Gospel settles for less than what the Savior came to offer.

A more full picture of the Gospel (and one that I think Jesus wants us to have) is that he lived and died so that we can die to the sin and death that entangles us, and live a life on earth that is truly full of abundant goodness. In this, we realize that Jesus’ Kingdom is one that is both here and now, and will be completely experienced in heaven. This can be a tough reality to come to grips with, but it is certainly good news to realize that a foretaste of eternity in Heaven is easily accessible if only we seek it. Jesus’ Gospel is the story of God, which we as Christ followers are pursuing. The more that we chase His way of life, which is far better than any way of living we can imagine, the more we get to experience the life he offers. Jesus’ Gospel is for all peoples for all time. This is the beautiful thing about His version – it transcends all cultures and applies to all peoples of Earth. In other words, it points to His sovereignty and grandeur. How can we settle for anything less than this?

While studying the Kingdom of God or Kingdom of Heaven in the New Testament, it is fascinating to note just how often these phrases are discussed. In fact, they are referenced about 110 times! This includes mentions in all four gospels, as well as Paul’s letters, and Revelation. Amidst these citations there are several illustrations, teachings, and parables on the Kingdom. One of the many notable phrases, which was repeated, is that the kingdom is near! Jesus mentioned this in Matthew 4:17, “From that time Jesus began to preach, saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” Jesus began with this teaching, and continued by comparing the kingdom of heaven to leaven, a grain of mustard, treasure, a merchant, a net, a master of a house, and a man who sowed good seed. It is interesting to note all the different things that it is likened to, and then to see how Jesus used each of those illustrations to teach us something about the Kingdom. This reveals the brilliance of Jesus in his teaching. He tried in so many ways to relate the truths of the Kingdom to his followers even when they didn’t understand. It also reveals that there is a lot to understand about how the Kingdom works, and how we can learn to apply its realities to our lives.

The Kingdom of God is to be sought with complete abandonment. In a foundational teaching from Matthew 6:33 Jesus says, “But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” Christ states that the kingdom of God and his righteousness is the first thing his followers should pursue. This verse can be very helpful in directing the ways that we make decisions and live our lives. However it was not only Jesus who proclaimed this message, Paul did as well. One example, out of many, is found at the end of Acts. We are informed that while Paul was in Rome for two years he was “proclaiming the kingdom of God and teaching about the Lord Jesus Christ with all boldness and without hindrance (Acts 28:31).” Paul provides another confirmation that the Kingdom of God is something to be treasured, proclaimed, and seized today.

As the class learns about what it means to live as an Apprentice of Jesus, we are excited to have a role in this Kingdom that is readily available. We long to establish lives with God in his Kingdom, where God’s will has its way in our lives. Ultimately, God’s mission is to build his character in his people to do his work. This mission has been given to the Church, the body of his sons and daughters. As members of the Church pursue lives that seek and surrender to the way of Christ they are formed into his image. When this occurs, the contagious virus of Christ’s good news can be spread. As this message of sacrificial love is passed across cities, states, and nations, God’s creation might be redeemed through the blood of Christ. This leads to the beginning of the life that Jesus came to offer. This is the beginning to life in the Kingdom of God!

I have seen these types of messages and teachings given within the Friends Church. Examples of these messages include the events listed previously such as Summit and Spring Invasion. Other displays occur on Sunday mornings at Northridge Friends Church. Pastor Manny Garcia has a rich perspective in spiritual formation and has spoken on the newness of life that Jesus offers and the availability to start this way of living immediately. We have also discussed this concept within the young adults group at the church. I have learned so many important concepts since entering into the CSF curriculum at Friends University and engaging with these opportunities in the Friends church. These experiences have pushed me closer in relationship with Christ, thus giving me a better understanding about how life on earth can best be lived out.

In a culture of varying gospel messages I am encouraged and uplifted to hear about the new way of living that Jesus came to give. No longer do we have to wait until heaven to experience a good life that is easily accessible now. As the good news of a Kingdom that is here and now, and fully realized in the future spreads, Earth will catch glimpses of Heaven. Just as Jesus modeled in his Prayer in Matthew 6, this is a beautiful image to embrace.

– Austin Schmidt, Friends University

Faith, Friends, Future.

Thursday, September 22nd, 2016
img_3159

Christa Follette is a Sophomore at Friends University studying Health Science and Christian Spiritual Formation. She also attends Northridge Friends Church in Wichita, KS.

Three large banners hang in the Davis Administration Building at Friends University. The banners read: Faith, Friends, Future. These three words summarize and embody my experience at Friends University thus far.

Being in Wichita and at Friends has provided me with more avenues than ever before to grow in my faith. Campus ministries, Christian Spiritual Formation coursework, Chapel, Northridge worship service, Northridge youth programming, college and young adult study groups, and one-on-one mentoring are a few of the contexts where I have had the opportunity to grow in my faith. Each of these avenues provides different opportunities for spiritual formation. Spiritual formation is a relatively new term to me. I had heard the word growing up, but did not really understand what it meant. Dallas Willard states that, “Spiritual formation in the tradition of Jesus Christ is the process of transformation of the inmost dimension of the human being, the heart, which is the same as the spirit or will. It is being formed (really, transformed) in such a way that its natural expression comes to be the deeds of Christ done in the power of Christ.” In other words, Christian Spiritual Formation is a transformation of the heart and mind to that of Jesus Christ resulting in a changed lifestyle performing the work of Christ by his power and for his glory to benefit those around us.

Thus far in my Christian Spiritual Formation (CSF) classes I have learned the importance and the immense benefits of practicing the disciplines and grounding my faith with a strong Biblical base. In my Developing a Devotional Life class, our professor introduced us to the disciplines found in Richard J. Foster’s, Celebration of Discipline, and had us participate in a different one each week and then reflect on whether or not the practice was one we would presently implement into our lives. Then, to conclude the class we wrote a Rule of Life, if we had not yet done so, or revised our Rule of Life if we had already written one. The Rule of Life that I made in this class has helped me as I continue striving towards allowing God to work in and through me to further his kingdom.

The other CSF classes I have taken have helped me to form a strong base for my faith grounded in the Word of God. One of my classes, Survey of The Bible has given me a greater understanding of the historical context of the Bible. I am currently taking Applied Christian Ethics, which has really challenged me and forced me to ask a lot of questions. Many times I find myself getting concerned that I do not have my ethics and theology all ironed out, but then I remember that there is grace. I do not and will not ever have it all figured out, and that is okay. What I can do is, by the grace of God, seek after His heart each day, and allow him to reveal himself to me.

I have heard over and over again that the friends you make in college will be some of the best friends you will ever have, and so far I have found this to be true. Being at Friends has provided me with such an awesome community to learn and grow with. In addition to the community at Friends University I have blessed to be a part of the community at Northridge Friends Church. The Sunday morning worship service, college ministry and numerous families that provide support and encouragement at Northridge have been a huge blessing to me. I have found a family in my friends from Northridge.

The last banner at Friends reads future and my academic pursuits are preparing and equipping me with the knowledge necessary for the future vocation that God is calling me to. With my faith and friends to go with me, I am taking each day as a blessing and opportunity to journey through life.

I am uncertain of what the future holds. I have my plans, but I know that God’s are far greater than mine. I have found great freedom in handing over my plans and pursuits to God and praying “Your will be done here on earth as it is in heaven.” Would you pray that with me this year?

– Christa Follette, Friends University

 

Third Annual FFF Retreat

Wednesday, September 7th, 2016

Praise God, for he is always faithful! Throughout the past three years I have seen God’s faithfulness first hand, both in my life and in the extended ministry of the Friends Church to Friends University students. I believe that through these most recent years we have grown both individually as a church and as a university, but we have grown together as well.

The Friends Friends Friends (or FFF) retreat is a great example of this growth together. If this is your first time to read about our annual retreat, take a look at the last year’s blog post. In each of the past three years our retreat has grown in attendees; this year we had 25! The topic of discussion was Self-Care as Soul-Care, which included subjects like sleep, exercise, Sabbath, and food. We learned that these subjects are made for us and not us for them. They are not a new type of legalism, but rather means of grace, helpful tools that God has given us in our chase of Christlikeness. I think I can safely speak for everyone when I say that we were challenged in new ways, as we don’t typically talk about those things in church or class!

In addition to these topics, we were given time for silence, solitude, and rest. The first couple of weeks of school are certainly some of the craziest of the semester, as all of our schedules are in flux and we figure out the new unique pace of life. The FFF retreat was a great remedy for our frenzied lives, and a great reminder that God’s rhythm of life, as modeled by Christ, is much more life-giving and sustainable than any rhythm we can come up with. Time and space for rest and communion with God were absolutely appreciated by all.

Another way that we experienced self-care as soul-care was through playing together! Two of the things we do best on the FFF retreat are play hard and laugh hard. Whether it was volleyball, extreme duck-duck-goose, “over the hill”, the name game or playfully imitating one another, there was hardly a moment where I didn’t have a smile on my face. We really do have a blast on this retreat!

All in all, the third annual FFF retreat was an incredibly rich time for us. We learned more about God, about ourselves, and about how we can follow Christ more intimately, for the ultimate intention of working alongside God in his mission in the world. We continued our growth together as Friends Church attendees, Friends University scholars, and as friends (in the customary, relational sense of the word). All of these uses of “Friends” can become quite confusing!. God is always faithful, he always provides, and it is usually far and above what we could ever expect. The third annual Friends Friends Friends retreat was no exception.

We are so very grateful to Pastor Manny Garcia and General Superintendent David Williams who offered their wisdom to us about exercise and Sabbath. We are particularly grateful to Associate Superintendent Adam Monaghan for his faithfulness and love for us as college students, and for all of the work he put into the making this wonderful weekend retreat happen. Thank you, Adam!

I think it is fitting that I attach the “Prayer to Welcome the Sabbath” by Shane Claiborne, Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove and Enuma Okoro in their awesome book Common Prayer: A Liturgy for Ordinary Radicals. We used this beautiful prayer at the beginning of our retreat, and we hope that it blesses you as it did us.

In Christ
– Josiah Brown

A Prayer to Welcome the Sabbath

Lord of Creation,
create in us a new rhythm of life
composed of hours that sustain rather than stress,
of days that deliver rather than destroy,
of time that tickles rather than tackles.

Lord of Liberation
By the rhythm of your truth, set us free
from the bondage and baggage that break us,
from the Pharaohs and fellows who fail us,
from the plans and pursuits that prey upon us.

Lord of Resurrection,
May we be raised into the rhythm of your new life,
dead to deceitful calendars,
dead to fleeting friend requests,
dead to the empty peace of our accomplishments.

To our packed-full planners, we bid, “Peace!”
To our over-caffeinated consciences, we say, “Cease!”
To our suffocating selves, Lord grant release.

Drowning in a sea of deadlines and death chimes,
we rest in you, our lifeline.

By your ever-restful grace,
allow us to enter your Sabbath rest
as your Sabbath rest enters into us.

In the name of our Creator,
our Liberator
our Resurrection and Life,
we pray.

Amen.

A Good and Beautiful Perspective

Wednesday, March 9th, 2016

aibig**From Various Friends Church Students in the CSF Program at Friends University.**

Christian Spiritual Formation, as M. Robert Mulholland Jr. defines in his book Invitation to a Journey, is “the process of being conformed to the image of Christ for the sake of others.” Christian Spiritual Formation (CSF) is not about me, and it never will be. For my classmates and I, this point is being emphasized and driven home in Renovation of the Heart, the CSF course we are currently in. We are repeatedly visiting what it looks like for our formation into the image of Christ to become inseparable from our mission in the world, and the process by which that formation happens. One of the textbooks that we are using, The Good and Beautiful Community by James Bryan Smith, hones in on community as one of the key components of the process of transformation into Christlikeness, and the simultaneous growth in personally and communally joining God’s mission of “being the light of the world.”

On the first day of class, our professor, Matthew Johnson, noted the tension that exists between formational community and our action in the world. In an intentional, formational community there is a context of learning, safety, and warmth, which is necessary for transformation. However, we cannot squat there; we have to continue to be the hands and the feet of Christ, being the witnesses of the Gospel of Jesus to “Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1.8). This is God’s mission that we are called to be a part of.

This raised an issue for me personally. I am the type of person that generally likes comfort, and avoids confrontation and change. Without any other influences, those are some of the characteristics that drive how I operate, even in my community building. I have my community, and it is just the way I like it – consisting of friends who just so happen to be quite similar to myself! As I continue to grow in my understanding of the Kingdom of Heaven and continue to learn from Christ, I am faced with the challenge of balancing my comfort zone within a safe community and stepping into my role of bringing the Gospel message of life to the world.

To illustrate this relationship of community and mission, our professor gave us the image of the cloister door (I had never heard of such a thing!). The cloister door was the divider between the living space of the monks in Christian monasteries and the world outside. On the inside of the door radical community was taking place with shared times of prayer, meals, and study, and on the outside they had a mission of love and care in the surrounding area. Surely they too felt the tension between community and mission, and yet seemingly were able to strike a healthy balance between the two.

I am learning that instead of letting the pressure of living both in formational community and being on mission in the world bury me, to embrace it, and find the appropriate balance between community and mission in my 2016—Friends University—Friends Church context. As I continue to be immersed in my formative Christ-centered community, I am finding that Christ is meeting me there, teaching me how to be a brighter light and a saltier salt. I am also finding that as I continue to take part in mission Christ meets me there as well, teaching me what life in the Kingdom of Heaven is all about. Both my community and mission are opening my eyes to the world’s tremendous need for Jesus and his liberating Gospel, and are avenues through which Christ forms me into his image.

The reality is that formative community and mission are in tension with one another at times, but I am called to both. They are both essential aspects of being an apprentice of Christ, and I am learning that they are life giving when balanced properly.

DSC_9885

JOSIAH BROWN  |  Junior, Friends University, Finance and Christian Spiritual Formation Major. From Chandler Friends Church. Attends and serves at Northridge Friends Church when in Wichita.

This is a glimpse into what students are learning in the Christian Spiritual Formation Program at Friends University, a ministry of the Apprentice Institute. If you are interested in finding out more about the CSF Program or The Apprentice Institute, please feel free to contact Damian Berry at berrydam@friends.edu, or check out apprenticeinstitute.org.