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Summer 2011 Reading List

Someone very wise once said, “Leaders are Readers.” Don’t ask us who said it, we don’t know. But one of the best ways to grow in your faith (or to seek truth if you are not a follower of Jesus) is to read good books from great Christians.

Reading great books is kinda like being discipled by some of the wisest people you may never meet. And it is one of the ways you can be a part of a universal community of faith.

So whether you have all summer free or whether you are going to be busier than when you are at the UofA, picking up some great books can be one of the best ways to help you grow this summer.

Here are a few we recommend with links to get them yourself (click on them to go to the Amazon link):

Grasping the Gospel Deeper

Discipleship & Personal Growth
Evangelism & Apologetics 
Going Deeper
-DJ

Thoughts on Us, Jesus, & the Tragedy in Tucson

The city of Tucson, the University of Arizona, our state, and our nation have been rocked by the tragedy at a Safeway just miles from our campus four days ago.  Six people have lost their lives, while many others were wounded.  We continue to pray for Gabrielle Giffords and the others still in critical condition after the attack.  Later today we will join in prayer with the University Religious Council and UA President Shelton, and tonight we will join the Memorial at McKale with President Obama in remembrance and prayer for the victims, their families, and those still struggling for life.

As members of the UofA community and the greater Tucson community, I wanted to offer some thoughts on the tragedy on behalf of Cru at UA.  Most of us in Cru are followers of Jesus, and so we deeply believe there are profound and eternal things at stake in this tragedy, and we want to comment on just a few.  Others have commented far better on the political aspects of the tragedy, and we will not enter into that discussion here.

First, how are we to view this act? For one, as followers of Jesus we deeply believe in evil and the horrible reality sin, though we mourn it greatly.  Some would avoid the language of good and evil completely, focusing rather on societal influences that affect such horrendous behavior, or perhaps on mental illness.  We believe societal influences make a great difference, and that mental illness is a reality that we are not qualified to speak on.  But the Bible speaks clearly to not only evil in general, or in people like the shooter, but that wickedness and evil reside in every human heart.  Romans 3 speaks to this reality:

“…no one does good, not even one…Their feet are swift to shed blood; in their paths are ruin and misery, and the way of peace they have not known.  There is no fear of God before their eyes.”

Surely we can see this reality reflected in the evil act of the shooter.  It is unequivocally wrong and wicked.  But as followers of Jesus we are aware the roots of the same evil and wickedness and hate lie in our own hearts.  Jesus warned in Matthew 5:21-22 that the roots of murder are anger, and that God sees our unjust anger in our hearts and will hold us in judgement.

So, we are able to call out this act as absolutely evil and wicked, but we are kept humble and mournful because we know the very same root of wickedness lies in our own hearts.  We are reminded to be mindful of our own potential for evil and to seek a remedy for our hearts.

Second, whenever tragedy like this takes place in life, many of us ask questions like, “Where is God in the midst of this tragedy? If he is so powerful and good, why wouldn’t he stop such evil?”  These questions tend to come even with those who are not spiritual or religious.  The article, “Backstory” puts this reality well,

‎”Instilled in us is a longing for the ideal world & perfect intimacy for which we were created. We sense the evils of war & rape & death are alien to our existence. As Martin Luther King Jr. observed, we are confronted by an ‘eternal oughtness:’ that the world is not as it ought to be, that unconditional love & perfectpeace are forever elusive.”

These questions are natural.  They come to my own mind.  But before commenting on the actual question, we should notice that just the fact we sense there is injustice, that there is absolute wrong, that “this is not how it should be!” shows us that we were made for something different.  Christians believe this is because God did not create us for such tragedy and evil and sorrow.  We were created for a loving, perfect relationship with Him flowing out into love and care and goodness towards one another.  If there is no God, then this act is not truly evil.  If there is no God, then we cannot ask “Where is God in the midst of this tragedy?”  But we of course believe there IS a God in this.  Christians believe He is both powerful AND good.

So why didn’t he stop this great evil?  Why did He allow 6 people to die?  We are not given specific answers to questions like these in Scripture.  Deuteronomy 29:29 says, “The secret things belong to the Lord our God…” We are told clearly that God is good and without any evil, AND that He is all-powerful and sovereign, but we are never told how those things work out in specific details.  But let me ask this question: Is it possible that, if there is a God who is all-powerful, all-knowling, and all-good, that He COULD work out things for greater good purposes that you would not be able to see or comprehend with your limited knowledge and understanding?  If He is all-powerful and all-kwowing and all-good, can He work out good in the end from this tragedy in Tucson?  It is a true act of faith and humility to believe that He could.

Lastly, there is unbelievable evidence in the Bible that God CAN and DOES work amazing good from the worst of tragedies.  In fact, Christians, at the heart of their faith, believe that God used the greatest tragedy ever to bring about the greatest good ever.  Jesus, the Son of God, was perfect and sinless.  He in fact is the only faultless human that ever lived.  He is the only One of us who ever did perfect justice, love, care, and who was righteous through and through.  In fact, Jesus said he was God come to earth to rescue us and forgive us of our sin, our incurable wicked hearts, as described in Romans 3.  So to kill him is actually the greatest tragedy the world has ever seen, for he is the only one who was truly innocent.

But, Christians believe that in this very tragedy and evil, God was sovereignly working out the greatest good possible on the cross.  He was paying for our sin and evil on the cross by taking on the punishment for it himself.  HE was taking the punishment for OUR wickedness.  And now Jesus is able to unite us to God in relationship with himself through the cross.  God accomplished the greatest good the world has ever known through the greatest tragedy the world has ever known.

So if you are not a follower of Jesus, perhaps you would consider that God can bring about good from great tragedy, and He can do that here in Tucson, just like he did 2000 years ago through Jesus.  And perhaps you will begin to see why Christians celebrate Jesus so much and trust him so much.  Maybe you will take a step to seek him out yourself.

And if you are already a follower of Jesus, mourn over your own wickedness and capacity for evil, and marvel that God paid for that evil through His Son on the cross, and that He will do good here in Tucson through this great evil.  And take the opportunity to share that wonderful news, if given the opportunity and in sensitivity, with others this week and this semester.

DJ Jenkins

Cru at UA Campus Director

Further Recommended Resources:

1) United in Horror – New York Times

2) The Tucson Tragedy and God’s Gift of Moral Language – Kevin DeYoung

3) Why does God allow bad things to happen? – Article from EveryStudent.com

4) Backstory Booklet – PDF on the Story of God

Want your professors to know Jesus?

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In Cru at UA we believe the greatest news in all the world is wrapped up in the person and work of Jesus. In him is good news for the religious and the irreligious, and he proclaimed a message that is radically different from moralism or self-discovery.

And we believe this message is for everyone, including everyone at the University of Arizona. That includes your professors. We want the best for the University, and that has to include your professors, since they are an integral part of the UofA.

Randy Newman has written a great blog post on how students can share their faith with their professors, and it may be different (and more convicting) than you might think.

It is a great read. Check it out at this link: http://bit.ly/bvKZix

Cru Summer Reading Suggestions

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Summer is a great time to get away from classes (for those of you not in summer school) and focus in a different way on growing in your relationship with Jesus. In Cru, we firmly believe that reading from other godly men and women is one of the best ways you can grow in Christ. It is like having a your own personal one-on-one with amazingly wise people.

Pick a few, or go nuts and read them all (I dare you!). So, without further adieu, here is our Cru Summer Reading List (P.S. – click on the name of the book to take you to Amazon for purchase):

Can’t Miss

  1. Prodigal God, Tim Keller – An amazing book that is short, but will take your heart deep into the gospel. Simply couldn’t recommend it more, for believers in Christ and non-believers.
  2. Don’t Waste Your Life, John Piper – Great principles for anyone on how not to waste your life.
  3. How People Change, Tim Lane & Paul Tripp – No better book will give you biblical categories for how to grow in Christ. For discipleship, for leadership, for knowing Jesus more; read this book.
  4. Living the Cross-Centered Life, C.J. Mahaney – Solid, solid book on living from the reality of the cross
  5. DEVOTIONAL BOOK: What Jesus Demands From the World, John Piper – A wonderful book that focuses on studying every command that Jesus gave in the Gospels, broken up into small, day-length chapters

To Grow in Evangelism

  1. Reason for God, Tim Keller – Probably the best book out there today on answering the toughest objections to Christianity, as well as showing how Christianity reveals the only true hope
  2. Questioning Evangelism, Randy Newman – Great book to practically help you use Jesus’ method, questions, to tell people the gospel
  3. God Space, Doug Pollock – Amazing and practical thoughts on telling people about Jesus over the long-haul

Going Deeper

  1. Desiring God, John Piper – Will revolutionize your view of pleasure in God. It is not light reading, but it is worth it.
  2. The Cross of Christ, John Stott – In depth look at the work of Jesus on the cross. A longer read, but incredibly worth it.
  3. Sex is Not the Problem (Lust is), Joshua Harris – A solid read on one of the toughest idols we bow down to, lust.

All right, that should be plenty for anyone to read all summer! If you want more suggestions, or have specific topics, feel free to email us at cruatua@gmail.com.

Have a great summer!

How not to commit idolatry in your finals

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It’s that time of the year again, when tests that make up 50% of our grade show up and haunt our thoughts. It’s the end of the year (or semester)! We all know the feeling. I can personally remember tons of butterflies in my stomach, hours of staring at notes, sleepless nights, and lots of caffeine during my days of finals/midterms.

But how do we not let our tests control us? More importantly, if you are a follower of Jesus, how do you not commit idolatry with your finals? What does that even mean?

What is idolatry?

Biblically, idolatry is any time something becomes more important to us than God.  You can see this in Romans 1:25: “…they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator…” The truth of God that we exchange is that there is anything more important, more pleasurable, more wonderful, more beautiful, more worthy than God is.

So idolatry in finals would be any time we let our tests/studying control more of our lives than Jesus.  Idolatry happens any time we are more worried about the tests than following Jesus and obeying him.  It happens when we believe the lie that getting a good grade on a test will be better than knowing more of Jesus and following him.

How does idolatry in finals look?  Extremely stressed out students.  Students that treat their friends and others horribly because they are so caught up in their tests instead of concerned with loving them.  Students that seem to lose all joy and hope at the thought of failing a final.  You can probably think of times you have seen people like this, or worse, when this has been you.

So how do we avoid idolatry in finals?

This isn’t a simple thing, because like any sin struggle it is an inner matter of the heart.  But let me offer a few thoughts that may help:

  1. Remember your true worth/value (Romans 8:31-39)– For a Christian, your worth and value is not found in how you perform at anything, including tests.  The world will say you are worth more if you graduate with honors, but Jesus doesn’t.  Your worth and value is wrapped up in him and his final work on the cross.  God’s love and approval of you now is unshakable because of what Christ is done, and will not change no matter how well or poorly you do on your tests.
  2. Remember where true joy comes from (Psalm 16:11)“In your presence is FULLNESS of joy, at your right hand are pleasures FOREVERMORE.” For a follower of Jesus, we need to remember that more joy than is imaginable is found in God in Christ.  It is tempting to believe the lie that we will be far happier if we get better grades and graduate with certain honors, but the truth is that that joy will not sustain us.  Only the fullness of joy in Jesus can.  And we already have it!
  3. Remember the sovereignty of God (Eph 2:10, Proverbs 16:9)– It is humbling to remember and believe that WE are not ultimately in control of our lives.  God has already prepared for his children good works for them to accomplish.  He is the one who leads us and directs us.  Are we so prideful to believe we can screw up all his plans?  It is wonderfully freeing to believe God is sovereign in your tests so that you can try your best, and understand that God will lead you where he wants you, no matter how you do on your finals.

Also, PRAY!  Bring your tests before God.  He is with us.  Hopefully these thoughts are helpful to you as you move into this season.  Blessings!

-DJ

Welcome to the new blog!

This will be a great place for Cru at UA students and staff to interact, share with one another, and have conversation over “Following Jesus, Loving People, and Seeking the Good of the UofA.”  Check back regularly and make sure you leave your own thoughts in the comments!