Thursday, 26 February 2009

Stop to sing

From Bish:
We start with God. Father, Son and Holy Spirit. The Father sending forth his word in the power of the Spirit to bring order out of chaos, the world out of water, light over darkness climaxing in the making of Man in God’s image (Genesis 1). We find The Man placed in God’s temple-mountain garden and given a Bride. He stops to sing. Together they’re to work and cultivate this temple extending it into a global garden in which man and God dwell together, man ruling the world under God (Genesis 2). One day the world will be full of people. One day the world will be full of the glory of God, that which is supremely displayed in The Man, Jesus Christ (2 Cor 3v18).

This Man overthrows God and is kicked out of the temple (Genesis 3), though he’s promised that a seed of the woman will come who will defeat evil and bring them back into the garden. The first candidate for that is murdered by his brother who builds a city for his own glory (Genesis 4). From The Man and his Bride comes another son who is not the seed who begins to call on the LORD. ... READ ON

Tuesday, 24 February 2009

Tabletalk - joyful, deep freedom!

Tim Rudge on joyful freedom deep down - that is, sanctification! Definitely worth 25 minutes listen, as Tim chats to Mike Reeves in UCCF's latest Tabletalk podcast. The key to joy is abandoning hope - abandoning all hope outside of Christ.

Calvinist fun

A bit of silliness from a man with a guitar... who thinks his wife's a Calvinist.

[HT: Mark Meynell]

Monday, 23 February 2009

Rejoice in the Lord!

At the training weekend just run for new CU leaders in the Mighty Midlands, we finished by considering Philippians 3. Then, returning home, I caught BBC2's Trouble in Amish Paradise on iplayer. What an amazing example of Philippians 3 in person, currently!

Having read the Bible in their own language, they discovered Christ, and started trusting Him for salvation, rather than the rules and lifestyle of their religious community. Not that they say those things are bad: they now feel free to obey those rules (or not), and choose to live in that lifestyle, but not to trust in it for merit with God. When the community forces them to choose: community, family, lifestyle, support - or remaining true to what they've found, that salvation is by trusting Jesus, that obeying the church is not right when the church bans the Bible and bans meeting to study it or pray or sing in your own language - then these people chose to obey God rather than men. But they testify that Christ is a thousand times better. Whatever gain they had, they have counted as loss for the sake of Christ.

Indeed, they count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake they have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that they may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of their own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith — that they may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible they may attain the resurrection from the dead.

Not that they have attained that, but this documentary described how they press on to make it their own, because Christ Jesus has made them his own. They work at it - not having good knowledge of English, they study the Bible with a dictionary to hand, as they seek to understand! They don't despise those who haven't yet realised this: they have great love for others, seeking still to be Amish to the Amish, so as to win them for Christ, and to be non-Amish to others, to also win them for Christ. They are hoping in Christ despite hardship. Watch the video and rejoice, and pray for them.

Thursday, 19 February 2009

Free at Aston - day 4

On this final day of Aston CU's focus week, the campus was rather strangely deserted! But while flyering was hampered, conversations continued using questionnaires and at the stall in the uni' foyer, the lunchbar ("Is God a kill-joy?") was still mostly full, with great discussions afterwards, and Pizza Hut was so full for 'True Freedom' in the evening (around 80 people) that they had to send some CU members to the other PH in town to get more dough. This did leave a nice gap in the pizza consumption, just right for the talk, before the second round of pizza appeared.

A visiting crime writer was intrigued by our stall's display:

"But it's probably not what it says," he said. "It is what it says," I replied, "but it may not be what you'd think!"
A student of another culture asked the best question I heard all week: "The main things of Christianity," he asserted, "are that we can be forgiven, our sins atoned for, through the death of Jesus on the cross, that Jesus is the Son of God, and that God is Trinity." (At this, I wished that all Christians were so clear.) "Yet Jesus doesn't emphasise these in the gospels - he doesn't state them explicitly. Why do you give these such a key place if they aren't emphasised in the gospels?" As he had to rush off before the talk, I talked with Him about how Jesus reveals to his disciples who he is, in Mark's gospel - not so much in explicit statements, but in His words and deeds, gradually. The disciples spend much of the first half of their time with Jesus confused and fearful, wondering, "Who on earth is this?" Then when they 'get it' - he's God's promised King! - Jesus starts explaining that God's King must die. He gives it to them gradually, and all the time, every incident turns or focusses on who Jesus is and why he has come. The student understood this, but as the talk started and he dashed off saying he may come to the follow-up course, I wished that I'd said the obvious.

We don't get our understanding of Jesus and his work simply from the gospels. Jesus didn't come out of the blue (haha). God spent 2000 years setting up history so that we would have concepts by which to understand the Person and work of the Christ. 2000 years promising that the Lord, YHWH, would come, 2000 years of atoning sacrifices, 2000 years of failed 'sons of God' (we had discussed this earlier in the conversation)
. For all, there is enough information in the gospel account to get who Jesus is and what his work achieves. But if you're speaking with someone who believes the word of the prophets, you have it on a plate - even just with the opening of Mark, from Malachi 3-4 and Isaiah 40.

Far less importantly, I got my exercise of the day when the lifts broke down in one of the residence tower blocks. Having reached the 17th floor flat, I thought I'd show you the view (witness how deserted campus was, at a usually busy time of day!):

I was praying at the start of the week 2 Thess 1.11-12:
"To this end we always pray for you, that our God may make you worthy of his calling and may fulfill every resolve for good and every work of faith by his power, so that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ."
God has answered that prayer abundantly - friends of CU members on the point of trusting in Christ, many students signed up for the course following on from this week, Globe Café increased by 300%, and so many significant conversations and gospels been distributed. CU members have grown more confident in Jesus Christ, and more aware of the truth and wonder of the good news.

Wednesday, 18 February 2009

FREE at Aston - day 3

Today's FREE at Aston took the shape of freedom from suffering (lunchtime - a full room with both friends and people come from flyer invitations) and freedom from guilt (evening, in a large Guild venue). The CU also held an excellent British Culture event, with a gospel talk, fish & chips, and a viewing of Her Majesty's coronation! I suspect the talk was appreciated more than the traditional British fare! Tomorrow, final day, is Free to live: isn't God a kill-joy? at lunchtime, and True Freedom in Pizza Hut in the evening.

Tuesday, 17 February 2009

FREE at Aston - day 2

Free at Aston day 2 started with an early morning prayer meeting of course, and I discovered that it takes twice as long to get into town at 8am than for 9. The lunchbar on Free to choose: do all religions lead to God? was well attended by non-Christians, who listened well and asked good questions - and also discussed with Christian friends afterwards.

The quiz night in a local pub was well-run and well-attended, but difficult with background noise and some talking over the talk on the greatest question - what is our greatest need? And the answer from Jesus in Mark 2. Still, some listened, and heard the good news that Jesus is God become man, to forgive our sins, and may continue talking about it with their friends.

We're having good discussions with some Muslim students.

Monday, 16 February 2009

FREE at Aston uni: Day 1

Aston University this week, and the CU's first focus week in 6 or 7 years. It's a fantastic campus, compact and in the city centre, with halls of residence on campus, and friendly Student Guild and uni, making it easy to hold events and flyer with invitations to those events. In fact, the Guild even sent an email round the student body, advertising the week of events! The CU members are all actively engaged in various societies, in halls and on their courses. The courses are hard, with plenty of work and lectures, but many CU members have worked hard to clear their diaries as much as possible for this week.

Today is a warm-up day, starting with stalls in the Guild and Uni foyers 9-5, with separate flyering in the lecture changeover times, some use of questionnaires, and "tower raids" in the afternoon - visiting all the flats in the halls of residence tower blocks, to offer FREE gospels and chat about Jesus. Then there's a girls' night in the evening, with a film followed by a talk by a CU member, picking up on themes from the film, and sharing how she became a Christian.

Give thanks for the good relations with the student Guild and the uni, for CU members keen to be on the stall and flyer, and yet also good at inviting friends along. Give thanks to for the discussions already going on with friends, for those reading Mark's gospel already, and for the couple of friends who have recently become Christians, are engaged in local churches, and are now taking advantage of a mission week for the first time, to witness to friends!

Tomorrow, Wednesday and Thursday there'll be lunchbars and evening events, at which John Newton Webb is speaking, so pray for him and for the other CU Guests, that the gospel of Jesus Christ would be clearly proclaimed, and that God would work powerfully by His Spirit to bring life and fruit from the seed as it is indiscriminately sown. The student population at Aston appear to be around a third East Asian and a third South Asian origin - whether British or not is hard to tell, but please pray especially for all those from a Muslim background, that they would consider Jesus, seeing in Mark's gospel that He is the Christ, the Son of God.

And for now, back to the stall for some questionnaires!

FREE Wolves!

Last week Wolverhampton CU had their first ever week of FREE events, giving students on campus the opportunity to hear talks and ask questions on a variety of topics - Free to believe: is faith blind? Free from pain: How can a loving God allow suffering? Free to choose: Don't all religions lead to God? Free love: What does God say about sex? And Free to follow: What do Christians actually believe? Although it was small, we were encouraged as people came to all the events, asking good questions and engaging in discussion with Christian friends and coursemates during the week. We spoke to some using questionnaires, too. There's been a good precedent set for future events, and CU members continue to give their friends copies of Mark's gospel, some reading them together. So we look forward to more Wolves students seeing who Jesus is, and finding that to be ruled by Him is perfect freedom!

Monday, 9 February 2009

"Foster carer should prevent conversion"

A 50 year old Christian foster carer has been struck off the register because a 16 year-old girl in her care became a Christian (reported here and here). I imagine that the social services are concerned that she could be rejected from her Muslim community of origin, because of her decision to be baptised. Perhaps they are concerned that Muslims will not trust social services to care for children if this is 'permitted' to happen - perceived proselytism. But as social services don't comment on individual cases, and as neither of those reasons are really ones that may be voiced aloud, we'll probably be left to guess. It seems to be assumed that all the religions are wrong - after all, it's just to do with culture. Faith should be ok - culturally expressed. But what good is faith in something untrue, unreal? Surely a healthier position in the biggest scale of things is to believe in the truth, whatever it is? But if we rule out of question that there is a bigger Truth, then we must cry horrors when someone changes from one view to another - because clearly that's just cultural imperalism.

How much can a carer preserve the culture of origin? How much should they treat a child differently to the rest of the family? Surely you'd expect a child to be welcomed in to share in the family. So a family I know foster babies - and usually, because no-one else seems to want to foster them, mixed race baby boys. Welcomed into the family for however long, they build up a photobook as requested by social services, for the child to have a record of their childhood. So do you want photos of their first Christmas, surrounded by the loving family, having fun, photos of the boy in church, being looked after by everyone, or should they be photos of him on his own, just in case he doesn't end up in a Christian family? Photos of him definitely not taking part in Christmas, in case he is later adopted into a Muslim family? What about if he's older, and asks to come to church with the family? What if...?

In the Republic of Ireland, it's illegal to be involved in an under-16 year old changing religion - including changing conviction from Roman to Protestant. Not few are the teenagers who come to trust in the finished work of Christ yet are made to continue to attend mass by their parents. It's hard. I always thought we were more free in Britain - or anyway, that we cared more for the right of the individual than for the preservation of the community. That's not necessarily an intrinsically good thing, but apparently, all it takes to change that is for the community to potentially not be happy. Then we run scared. At least in Ireland, there is an official age at which a child is 'permitted' to convert! After that, only social pressure will be exerted. Here, it seems the arm of the law will be exerted. The authorities have said that the 16 year old 'should stay away from church for 6 months'. She's caught a disease, and must be quarantined. It's as if they've learned from other countries who try to stop conversions - isolate them, don't let them near other Christians; tell them they're abandoning their own culture, tell them they'll lose their family. The only thing that's missing is jail.

You can't play make-believe with your whole life: when you welcome a child into the family, you share your life - not just some 'material' aspects. That would be bad parenting. If you believe that God doesn't exist, you will raise the child accordingly - and I consider that to be bad parenting, as it suppresses the fundamental reality of the universe. But you have the right to believe and live that faith position, whether as a parent or foster carer - you can't pretend otherwise. If you believe that Jesus is God incarnate, and will come again to save us from God's wrath and rule over a new creation in loving righteousness, then you will raise or care for a child accordingly - and some may consider that to be irresponsible parenting, as they think that is a fairy tale. But you have the right to believe and live that faith position, whether as a parent or a foster carer - you can't pretend otherwise.

Now, I might be wrong here, but would social services really want to alienate or get rid of all the Christians from their register? I'm sure there are some others who foster...

Jesus in College

Jesus in College - a lovely little book which will greatly encourage Christians in FE and 6th Form colleges. Steph became a Christian at university and then went to an FE college - and found no CU there. The fun started! And the discouraging slog. Steph shares with us her adventures with God in college, and encourages us to believe that as He promises in 2 Cor 4, God really does choose to work through the weak and foolish, to show that the power comes from Christ and not from us.

Thinking of the FE/HE college Cakes which I have the privilege of serving, I was encouraged and challenged by Steph's account, and plan to get more copies to pass round the CU!

It's easy to read - I read it on the 30 minute train journey to Wolverhampton... and it made me cry at some points (granted, in the middle of 3 CU mission weeks, I'm tired and emotional, but it's good anyway).

I recommend you get some copies to give to 6th formers and FE students in your church.

Friday, 6 February 2009

Join the party!

(AKA Free with BUECU, day 5)

God's throwing a party - come and join! Actually, with the number of people in every nation trusting in the infinitely worthy Person and precious work of His Son every minute, God must be constantly joyful. In this instance, a girl studying at Birmingham University decided today to repent from her own ways and trust in God to justify her by His Son. She came looking for something spiritual, and has now found Jesus.

There are hundreds of students at Birmingham Uni now reading Mark's gospel: some with flatmates or coursemates who're in CU, some having chatted with a CU member during the week, some having come to events, most having asked many questions and received some answers - but all reading Mark's gospel. Pray that for many more, they would see that Jesus is the promised Saviour-King, the Son of God, and would repent and believe this good news!

Love drives out fear

Love casts out fear. I've never been sure exactly how that works, because God's love for us means that we 'fear' Him rightly - though as John writes, because of His love toward us in Jesus, we no longer fear the punishment we'd deserve. Of course, it's a quotation out of context, and the full context explains it quite nicely. But it just popped into my head in one of those slight life situations that don't really deserve mention except to note for thankfulness to God that the good news of Jesus Christ does produce fruit in lives. So I wondered if that otherwise unnoticeable situation was indeed cause for thankfulness (welcome to my ponderings!):

I have an irrational fear - or perhaps more precisely, nervousness - of 'phoning people I don't know, or don't know well. It makes me feel slightly ill, and I'm inclined to put it off, and to work out exactly what to say. If they 'phone me, it's fine, and if it's a friend or even an office full of people I know well, it's ok. In fact, if they're a fellow Christian or Christian organisation so I know we share in the Lord and his Kingdom, then it's more or less ok too.
Maybe I don't fully trust that God is sovereign even when I can't see the person with whom I'm talking - maybe it's a control thing (suggestions for believing the Truth in this regard welcome as comments).

someone just asked me to 'phone some hostels in ski resorts in France, as she doesn't speak French. That ill feeling settled in my stomach. I quickly recalled to mind demi pension, but wasn't even sure what 'ski pass' is in French (I guessed 'ski pass' or 'pass ski' - turned out I was right). No time to put it off - no time to over-rehearse - I went for it. (Thankfully the lady had a lovely clear accent - over the phone I do struggle with lazy French accents or West African accents!) I don't say this as kudos to me(!) - any half-sane person would have no issue with ringing a hostel in the first place! But I reflected after the traumatic event, "' casts out fear': I wonder if this is an example of it, humanly speaking?" I wonder if God enabled me, through his Holy Spirit as he changes me and gives me love, to help this person even though through fear I really didn't want to do that task? I mean, when you love someone, you don't hesitate to help in something like that. So I reminded myself of the passage from which that phrase comes:
[1 John 4.13-21] By this we know that we abide in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit. And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Saviour of the world. Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God. So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. By this is love perfected with us, so that we may have confidence for the day of judgment, because as he is so also are we in this world. There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love. We love because he first loved us. If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother.
What encouragement - God himself lives in me, casting out proper fear through the love He has given us in sending Jesus to be our Saviour. This then liberates me to love people to the extent that it overrides even irrational fear!

Inconsequential pondering over. But I will rejoice for the very small sign of what Paul noticed in the Colossians, and what I've been praising God for all week in the Christian students in BUECU -
We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you, since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love that you have for all the saints, because of the hope laid up for you in heaven. Of this you have heard before in the word of the truth, the gospel, which has come to you, as indeed in the whole world it is bearing fruit and growing—as it also does among you, since the day you heard it and understood the grace of God in truth...

Free with BUECU - day 4

There seem to be a lot of francophones around this FREE week - a fact that Marion, Tom Trump & I are enjoying rather as we surprise them with witness in French! I spent the evening at the quiz event talking with a French girl about Jesus, faith, the cross, and Mark's gospel - one genuine question after another, from which she concluded that she really must read Mark's gospel. Brilliant conclusion! Jonti's mid-quiz talk on what it means to believe in Jesus was spot on and fitted exactly into our ongoing conversation.

The lunchbars continue to be well attended as Paul Clarke expounds the gospel from Mark - each day we rearrange the seating in the marquee to try to fit more people in, as today we hit 120 in one of the 2 repeated sessions. But more than attendance, people are really engaging with what's said, reading Mark's gospel, and spending time asking questions of Christian friends or CU Guests.

Wednesday, 4 February 2009

More joy than midnight snow

Have you ever been out before anyone else, and alone in the still air, crunched across newly-laid snow as flakes fall thickly around you? It's a thing of beauty and joy in the early morning, when the snowy sky is red with dawn, but this time, it was beauty and joy at midnight, with not a sound on the street.

It was for a very practical reason - I was coming home from BUECU's FREE week acoustic night, and need to get back to campus for an 8am prayer meeting in the morning, so as it was snowing heavily, I parked my car in a nearby street which is on a bus route, in the hope that it will be safer to drive from there tomorrow morning. But it's a lovely touch of grace that I have a car to drive in and give lifts - when late at night, cold and snowy - and that I got to enjoy the snow for a few minutes, until I shook myself like a wet Spaniel in my porch, and my coat shed its candyfloss and returned to charcoal grey.

On a not-completely unrelated note, in an excellent acoustic night, Matt Churchouse spoke in the vein of C.S.Lewis and Augustine, with a note of personal testimony, on finding satisfaction. It resonated with me as he shared of his teenage search for satisfaction in the jazz, until he realised that it was an god that didn't deliver - and by considering that all the good things we pursue are temporary, pushed us in the direction of finding Jesus to be our satisfaction and joy. Some non-Christians who came were struck by it, one girl telling me she totally agreed but found herself still living in pursuit of those temporary things anyway (pray for her & her Christian flatmate as they continue this conversation), and another saying Churchy should've said more: pray they'd come back for more about Jesus! Satisfied in Christ, we're free to have such joy in beauty as above. It doesn't have to be spoiled by the fact that it's temporary. It can be received with thanksgiving to the Creator, and enjoyed in hope of Eternity.

Tuesday, 3 February 2009

Free with BUECU - day 2

Following a hitch yesterday with the projector in the marquee (a lens cap was still on), this morning we had a heater breakdown! After much prayer and trial, it turned out it was just out of fuel. So, on with the show (and with trips to the petrol station with jerrycan), Paul gave us "Free from Guilt" from Mark 2, twice over, with around 90 in the tent each time. There were few questions this time, although we adopted the 'text a question' idea for those who'd be scared of the roving mic - but people were talking about what they'd heard with those around them, instead.

One girl came to me on the literature table before the 2nd lunchbar, interested in the historicity of the gospels. She'd had a look on wikipedia about Mark's gospel in particular, so we discussed how the Bible was compiled, and the reliability of Mark composing using Peter as a source. But the main point was one Paul made yesterday in the lunchbar - these guys really thought that life & death hung on Jesus' words, action and ultimately, his Person - so however or not you agree with them, recognise that they were very concerned to record with absolute accuracy what Jesus said and did! They thought eternal life hang on this, so they must get the word out truly.

We used questionnaires in the afternoon to chat to people around campus about freedom and Jesus, with most willing to take a gospel and investigate it further. This evening is an acoustic night, where Churchy will talk us through satisfaction, music, and Jesus.

Monday, 2 February 2009

FREE with BUECU - day 1

It started too early...

(Of course the morning greeted us with snow. It always snows in BUECU mission week.)

 at 7.45am I met members of 'my' CU hall group (for whom I'm a CU Guest for the week) to walk to the 8am prayer meeting on campus. At 9 we broke up for lectures and setting up the marquee - this year it's weatherproof, so hopefully unlike last time, shouldn't collapse under the weight of snow. Shouldn't.

50-60 people listened well to each lunchbar, as Paul spoke on Free your mind: Who do you say Jesus is? [Talk available soon on]

We did compete slightly with the noise of full-scale snow-ball wars waging outside, as quite a few lectures were cancelled for the snow, but unlike the lecturers, studen
ts had all made it to campus anyway.

(What is it about England cancelling everything for snow? Seriously, if we'd done that in Nor'n Iron the whole province would've halted for a quarter of the year.)

With the marquee remaining open, café-style, until 4pm, I chatted with a few interested students about the gospel, and gave away some literature. As one of the CU lads and I chatted with a guy for quite a while, we learned much of interest about socio-political ideas of economics, and shared a fair bit about the roots of sin in our hearts and how changing structures or being anarchic capitalists won't ultimately solve our problems, but Jesus cleans whitewashed tombs from the inside. I decided the time had come to draw the conversation to a close, however, when this guy declared that he could tell that we really believed what we were saying - he could see as we communicated in our eyes that this wasn't some door-to-door sales patter. "It's quite sexy, actually," he directed at me. As I said, there are moments when you move from wondering whether it's profitable to continue a conversation, to knowing that it's high time to move on.

Then, as my hall group members were assortedly departed to London, snowed-in in Nottingham, in a Chinese discussion evening, or in band rehearsal (interesting bunch!), and as I'd lost all sensation in my right foot toes and the ability to move them, I decided to drive home for a couple of hours to warm up. This was possibly foolish, as

a) I discovered it is not very safe to drive when your brake/accelerator foot is devoid of sensation so can't register how much you're pressing either pedal, and
b) I probably won't be able to drive back out tonight to a film night, as it was tricky enough getting the car home safely this afternoon, and it's still snowing.

Tonight hall groups are putting on various events including dialogue dinners, film evenings with discussion / a talk, and a quiz night with talk. It's a good night therefore for people to feel snowed in - they won't have to leave where their accommodation is. (Whether I'll make it to one of them is another question, as when I'm still fighting an infection of a fortnight's duration, and it's possibly not safe to drive again this evening.)

Pray for continued making-people-think in these events, and that as the week goes on, students would increasingly see Jesus as who He is - Christ and Lord.

Sunday, 1 February 2009


This week, see

I may be able to blog something of what goes on during the week, but see the timetable on that site and pray for us.

Quote of the day: the call on the Church

"The church exists for the kingdom of heaven, and God alone knows the elect, so the meaning of history lies not in the flux of outward events, but in the hidden drama of sin and redemption." - Augustin, The City of God.
Professor Carter, on the model of Christ transforming culture:
"It's often the case that when we set out to transform culture we're actually being transformed by it. But in church history often it's when the church just does what it's supposed to do that it inadvertantly ends up transforming culture as a side-effect." [White Horse Inn 18/01/09]