Sorry for the big lapse in blog writing, folks!  Today’s “thought” is on courage.  Throughout many of my conversations with students this semester I have become aware of students’ desire for better or more authentic relationships.  In praying with and for you, the concept of courage comes to mind.  “Why?” you ask… good question!

Courage is the drive to help us face every uncertainty; we face loneliness and we push through the insecure feelings and doubt.  Courage gives us strength to face fears.  And with more and more college-aged young adults hiding behind handheld screens, we need some supernatural boldness to do the extraordinary when it comes to initiating, looking up, sitting with acquaintances through awkward pauses, asking deeper questions of personal motivation and discovering the world of humanity that still exists.  Courage then must be a gift that empowers God’s children to live expectantly even when we are afraid and alone.

I have no “Bible knowledge” to drop on you for this sort of behavior — except this:

Who entered the world of humanity in the most meager, humiliating and condescending way ever known? 

Who sat through hours of scrutinizing questions and surrounded himself with uneducated doubters?  

Who taught that true “friendship” is about sacrifice?  

If you want to live more boldly in this world, look to Jesus – the author and perfecter of faith.  Look to him who abandoned a throne to dwell among mankind and guide them into true fellowship with God forever more.

I leave you with lyrics from Matt Redman’s song, “Never Once” in hopes that you’ll find strength in the faithfulness and presence of God, the Son.

Scars and struggles on the way
But with joy our hearts can say
Never once did we ever walk alone
Carried by Your constant grace
Held within Your perfect peace
Never once, no, we never walk alone

Never once did we ever walk alone
Never once did You leave us on our own
You are faithful, God, You are faithful

Clenched fists

At a recent Emmaus, I spoke about the process of grief and how our intense grasps upon the things of this world — even good things — often amplifies the pain when those things are taken away.  In a world where change is rapid and ambition is hypervalued, we cling to self-images, pride, fear, relationships, and worry in hopes that we can convince God in our prayers to heed special attention to what we want.

Henri Nouwen describes how this posture is so damaging to our concept of God or his goodness.   (Read the article from With Open Hands here.)  The daily exercise of trust is one that can restore our joy and peace when treasured things or persons are taken away.

Consider this daily prayer as a new discipline (in similar ways as journaling, study or silence).

  1. Approach God with your hands closed. Begin to confess what treasures lie beneath the white-knuckled power grip.  Acknowledge the ways that you cherish stuff, people, dreams or expectations.
  2. Let your hands relax.  Let air flow through your fingers as a reminder that someOne else has a larger domain in this world and in your heart. Even now if something was torn away, it wouldn’t be a surprise.  It would still hurt, but you would be alright.  Ask God to take whatever he will.  Ask for patience. Ask…and trust him to lead.
  3. Open your hands fully.  This posture abandons your control and relinquishes whatever “rights” you thought you had.  In this way, you are also prepared to receive.  God’s is in charge of what’s next.  Thank Him for graciously lead you to patience and healing.

If done regularly, this practice will help you listen to the Lord’s voice and trust his actions in your life.  Your hands will most likely return to clenching…but you will become accustomed to the way he faithfully brings you to a place of rest.

We’re moving to Wake!

After months of prayerful discernment and discussion with our leaders at First Presbyterian Church and the student leaders who serve Emmaus, we believe God is challenging us to a courageous change: to move our weekly gathering to campus.  

The significant factors that led to moving to Wake are these:

  • We want to reach students.  We use a buzzword around church these days: missional.  This word captures a vision to embody what God himself did in coming to humanity to reach us. In following His lead we want to move toward vibrant hubs of student life and be accessible right on campus.  God has sent us into the world and we do not want to expect students to “come to us” any longer.
    • We chose Wake because they have a newly renovated room (see below) that is easy to find, near parking for off-campus friends . This resolves some of the carpooling issues of getting “left behind”.  Wake has also been our main source of student involvement from the earliest days of Emmaus and has that traditional large campus feel for students wanting a large library, a coffee shop, or a large grassy quad to throw frisbee.  While we love the uniqueness of each campus, we believe this will best open the door for new invitations and relationships.
    • We will still offer a carpool from Salem College and believe that the time together in the church van will be a fun one to get to know one another on the short trips to and from campus.
    • If you are a student in the other campuses of this great city…or are college-aged…you are still welcome!!  We just want to make sure you know where to find us.
  • We want to create sacred space. In our space at First Pres, we worked hard to set up prayer rooms, adjust the stage and lighting to foster an ambiance of intentionality to space and worship.  The availability of the newly renovated and intimate chapel, known as “Davis Chapel” makes this an ideal space to maintain this core value. When you arrive in the room, you’ll have an atmosphere of spiritual symbolism and an openness to sit, stand, sing, share and absorb God’s spoken word.  It will feel like “church”…but we hope it will also feel like “home.”
  • We want to celebrate the Church. First Presbyterian Church is our sending church but we realize that many of you attend different worshiping communities.  As God will use the global Church to bring his Kingdom to this earth (Matthew 28:18-20), we will lift up the role of the Church (at FPC and others) and make sure that our students are plugging into a local congregation.  As such you will continue to see members from FPC offer their time to serve, teach, bake goodies, open their homes and hearts to invite you into that greater sense of community.  As the college ministry of First Presbyterian Church, we are grateful for the ongoing support and partnership that fuels our vision to reach and love college students in this city.

The change will understandably disrupt some of the things we have become accustomed to such as campus neutrality, resources (technological and room) and an accessible downtown location.  I am writing this post to address potential concerns and also inspire you to joyfully embrace the coming change.

Emmaus College Ministry is and will always be about inviting students to experience “real life in Jesus Christ”.  While our gathering location changes, our heart does not.  We want each of you to feel more in touch with this lifelong invitation from God and together we will discover the nuances of this call.  Our new adventure awaits…and we trust you will join us.

If you want to talk more about the big move or just need a friend to chat with, let us know!



Pray better, pt2

In the previous post on prayer, we looked at the biblical truth of how abundantly blessed we are… and how that might change the way we pray and ask God to bless us. (Perhaps that little “tweak” in your prayer life has already stimulated thought and growth!) Today’s post in a mere conclusion and summary of the final two “tweaks” to having a better prayer life.


“Be with me.”

We spend these words in our requests to God to be extraordinarily present in our day or difficult situations.  Or we might ask God to affirm a loved one with His divine presence.  The challenge here is to simply remember that God has revealed Himself to us in the Person of the Holy Spirit.  And this same Spirit is “sealed” within us.  He won’t leave.  He IS WITH US.  Perhaps we want to ask God to give us renewed faith…or increasing power to face the obstacles before us/others.  That is the better prayer.

“Protect me.”

As we face certain trips or fearful endeavors, we throw out this arrow to have God protect us.  As a parent, I pray this all the time for my little ones.  This prayer is a good prayer.  It’s biblical! (John 18, Psalm 140)  But the greater theological truth is that we know God sometimes allows bad things to happen to his beloved ones.  To impose a condition of protection upon God’s kids is a kind of conditionalism that might lead to a wounded faith. Or even worse, what if your real “god” is comfort or safety.  Here we might ask of God what we desire, but also yield to His ultimate plan…for us to be used by God for His glory.  So pray for that! Pray “God, protect me in this journey so I can fulfill this mission you’ve invited me into. And yet, I seek your will.  Use me…even if it hurts.”

May your intimate conversations with God be sweet.  May you hear His voice as you meditate on His truths.  This kind of “real life in Christ” praying might change everything that you experience in your times with the Father… and I can’t wait to hear what you are learning.

[Again, I am crediting Louie Giglio’s “Prayer Re:Mix” series on stimulating this conversation. As I’m sure he might credit someone else…]

pray better

PrayBetterThis past week we began a Tuesday series on prayer.  Specifically, we’ll look at what it means to pray better.  I have admittedly been inspired by Louie Giglio’s talk series, “Prayer Re:Mix“, which has completely changed how I pray for the past few years.  My hope is that you feel challenged to examine and perhaps tweak your own prayer life along the way.

Our journey moves through 3 central prayer-related fallacies:

  1. “Bless me”
  2. “Be with me”
  3. “Protect me”

We started with “Bless Me” and the challenge here is to simply see the truth from Scripture – especially from Ephesians 1:3-14 – that God has and will bless us.  Paul says to the Church (and I paraphrase here), “you guys! Looks at what God has done in Christ for us.  He’s chosen us, adopted us, redeemed us, forgiven us, lavished wisdom upon us, given us an interitance, and sealed it all within us with the Holy Spirit!”

Have you marveled at the BLESSING of all blessings today?  Have thanked God for the work of Christ which purchases for us all that we could ever hope for?  It’s not just stuff either.  It’s a daily-and-eternal belovedness.  We are his! And nothing could ever change that!

These next two weeks we’ll examine the other ways we can trust God to be with us and use us for his glory.  I hope you’ll chat with Jessica or myself…or each other…about what you’re learning.

You ARE blessed.  Now go be a blessing for HIM.

your real life

On Tuesday, Justin talked about the truth behind emmaus’ slogan: real life in Jesus Christ. Throughout the week, my conversations seemed to reflect the meaning in some way or another. Everyone I got to talk to had a new, and fresh perspective on the meaning for themselves. But it left me thinking, what would removing “me” from the equation of my life mean?

To be left with only Jesus. His plan. His guidance. To fully trust Him. In the months leading up to my start with First Pres I grew a lot in the area of contentment. Meaning, I had to relearn to stop chasing the next step and be present in what is happening now. But, contentment doesn’t translate to apathy, laziness, or mediocrity. It does translate to rest. To chat over coffee with a friend, to take a day off, to hike, to get lost in the city, or to lay in bed and watch netflix. Above that, it means I can live life inside Christ—hidden & found in Him.

The feeling of being lost is something we, as humans, are all too familiar with. But to be truly found, and sought after brings immediate rest, relief, and peace.
Think about it, have you ever been lost as a child in a place crowed with people? That first sight of your parents running towards you frantically is soon filled with an overwhelming sense of comfort.
When I feel alone, I remember I am not, for He will never leave or forsake me.
When I feel misunderstood, I remember my heart was created by Him, for Him.
When stress creeps in, He is there saying “you are found.”
For you died to this life, and your real life is hidden with Christ

Colossians 3:3



Our Purpose

If you’re anything like I was as a first year college student, you may catch yourself starting to think deeply, and in ways you’ve never thought of before. With that, you may start to wonder what the purpose is, what your purpose is. And soon, or maybe you have already started to wonder what would happen if you knew. Perhaps if I knew my purpose, I would have a better idea of how I should be spending my time, I would have a betting idea of what I should be studying, or what I should be involved in. It’s apparent that our purpose in life is something that is important to us. Our purpose is who we are – it’s our identity. That’s why we are all trying to find out; because when we do, we will know who we truly are. Once we think we find the reasoning, we can live our lives in full knowledge that we are doing what we were made to do.

In the Garden of Eden, God created us in His image, with a purpose. But how do we know? As I read and meditate on the scriptures I can’t find our purpose to be anything other than this: to be still. To be with God, and for God to be with us; for the Creator and His creation to live in harmony is perhaps the most fundamental purpose of life I can think of.

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.
Romans 8:15

When we know that we are loved unconditionally by our Father, our Creator – when we are loved as His creation – then we can finally feel free to be still. To be who we are, unabashed and no longer needing to prove our worth to ourselves, and the world around us. Jesus came to restore us to the original purpose, not what we endlessly search for.

Today, know that you are God’s beloved child no matter what you do, or don’t do.
Know that you are free to simply be who you are as God restores your being, and brings you His grace.


-Jessica Steiner
Emmaus intern


10492273_10152100104941362_6854578531504867915_n[2]Do you remember what it was like learning how to ride a bicycle?  (…you have learned how, right!?)  Last weekend, we taught our 5 year old, Tessa, how to ride.  Tessa had gotten so used to training wheels that the mention of taking them off caused a deep panic.  So we did surgery…on her bike.  I removed the pedals, the crank, the chain… so that all that was left was a bike to coast on.  (Apparently they sell these things but I’m too cheap.)  The key is in teaching how to balance before learning how to pedal.  
We get so used to running before we crawl…writing conclusions before we research possibilities…speaking before we think.  We rely on instincts that haven’t been developed fully before we throw ourselves off proverbial bridges.  In matters of faith, this is akin to how we try to live out our faith before we actually learn how to trust God.  We rush through a morning prayer.  We flip to a random page in our Bible to “get a good Word”.  We will even walk out of a church service disappointed when we didn’t “feel a connection”.  But these aren’t the avenues to true spiritual life; they’re shortcuts to dead ends. 
Do you trust God?  Do you fear Him? 
Read the Psalms sometime and you feel this tension.  Look at Psalm 44.  The psalmist describes all faithful work of God, then declares “I do not trust in my bow; my sword does not bring me victory.” 
Perhaps your view of God is a small one.  Start by trusting the One who spoke and created art and landscapes.  Start my reflecting on what he done for you, for humanity…for his own namesake.  Start by reminding yourself that he is enough. 
Then…when you’re looking at your own training wheels coming off and the impending crash into a telephone pole, you’ll hear his whisper, “Do you trust me?”  And you’ll say, “YES!”