Friday, 12 December 2008

Less Than Two Weeks...

I'm hoping to get round to writing some fresh blog fare sometime soon. And because Christmas is less than two weeks away, I'm hoping that this will keep you all happy in the meantime...



(HT:Gaz Leaney)

Tuesday, 25 November 2008

A reasonably exciting day



Today at Bolton CU we had a bit of a discussion about God's word and evangelism.

We read 1 Peter 1:23-25 and saw that it is the living and abiding word of God that causes us to be born again. We found out that this word of God is living and imperishable, and that it was the good news that was preached to us!

We also looked at Romans 10:11-17 and saw that for people to be saved from God's judgement they need to call on the name of the Lord - to trust and believe and seek mercy from him - and to do that we saw that people need to hear the good news being preached to them: faith comes from hearing, and hearing comes through the word of Christ!

There are around 11,000 non believers at the University of Bolton and these guys need to hear the good news and they need to receive God's word. Imagine my excitement as this tiny CU (7 students meeting in a small room) began to think for themselves about how they can go about getting God's word into students' hands!

They're now in the process of discussing how they can put on their first evangelistic event in years and how they can practically go about distributing as many FREE gospels as possible to their fellow students.



They've also decided to get a weekly prayer meeting going - as one student pointed out, without God involved, it's all pretty pointless! There are some really exciting ideas in the pipeline for how we can get these FREE gospels into peoples hands (watch this space!) and most CU members are thinking of personally handing out FREE gospels to their friends.

And, as if all that wasn't exciting enough, on her way out of the room where we meet one of the CU members got chatting to a random student and handed out our first FREE gospel: God's living and abiding word that brings rebirth is now in the hands of one more student in Bolton University.

So, if you're in the mood for praying, we'd appreciate prayers for...

  1. the student who recieved a FREE gospel earlier today.
  2. Bolton CU as they begin to think about ideas for how to distribute these FREE gospels.
  3. God to work through this CU and to encourage them as they begin to do evangelism.

Monday, 17 November 2008

Relay Bloggers 08/09

Due to the wonders of the Facebook application Blog Networks, I've just discovered a few more Relay Workers who are blogging their way through the year! So, to celebrate, here are the other Relay bloggers that I am aware of.

Bescot42 - Andy Jinks (Liverpool)
The Cornerstone - Craig Taylor (Newcastle)
Dear Freedom - Ed Rogers (Newcastle)
The Grace Race - Gethin Jones (Bangor)
Living Stones - Cat Hare (Exeter)
The Race - Mo McCracken (Relay coordinator)
Spider's Scribblepad - Peter Williams (?)
Threelay - myself (Manchester), Jez Poyner (Manchester), Craig Taylor (Newcastle)

If you're aware of anyone else, let me know and I'll add them to the list.

Thursday, 6 November 2008

Good Commentaries on the Cheap

Amazon are selling New International Commentaries very cheaply at the moment. Amongst others, they are selling Galatians by Ronald Y.K. Fung at£2.50 (down from £19.99!) and Genesis by Victor P. Hamilton, 2 volumes each at £1.99 (each down from £24.99!) Bargain-alicious.

I don't imagine they will last long at these prices. Thanks to Zac Wyse for pointing this out!

UPDATE: Amazon made a mistake, and all orders have been cancelled.

Sunday, 2 November 2008

Really Relay?

Judging by the many half completed draft blog posts I've written on what I've been doing so far in my Relay year, I think this post is long over due!

The other day I was on the bus heading up to the station to travel out to one of my universities and was not in a particularly good mood. I think I was pretty tired and didn't really feel as if I could be bothered to go to the CU event that was going on... But half way there it suddenly struck me just how fortunate I am to be doing Relay. I couldn't help but smile and think that I was, in my opinion, the luckiest person on that bus.

Get this: I get to spend my time studying the Bible for myself and meeting up to study it with Christian students. I get to spend time discussing the gospel with students who don't believe. As well as that, I get to look at the Bible with other older, more mature Christians, all of whom are much wiser and godly than I am at the moment. On the side, I'm learning a language in preparation for years 2 and 3 of Relay Homestart where I will hopefully be working with a certain IFES movement in Europe. On Fridays, I get to spend a whole day looking at Systematic Theology and the Great Commission.

In my opinion, this is a flipping awesome way to spend your time. So, in an attempt to celebrate the first two months on Relay (1/5th of the way in) these are five highlights so far...

1. Relay 1. Seriously, this is the best Christian conference I've been to. It can be summarised in that beforehand I thought I got grace, afterwards I realised that beforehand I really didn't! I'd still not say I've completely got it, but from what I know, it's more amazing than I ever dreamt. I'm not going to say too much more at the moment, because I'll post on it in the near future.

2. Glad You Asked. After a slow start, we now have a few students who attend - some don't believe and some do. What a privilege it is to be able to discuss spiritual truths with them and see them come to a deeper understanding of the Good News as they look at things for themselves.

3. Studying the Trinity. Mindblowingly amazing stuff. God is so incomprehensible, but that only deepens the awe at who he is. I blogged some of my thoughts on the Trinity over at threelay. Take a look!

4. Meeting up with students to look at the Bible. I'm currently meeting up with 4 students at different times and we're looking at Mark and Romans. What a privilege it is to point people to Christ in the Bible and see them realise just how awesome he is! It's also great because I get to study these great wonderful books and it actually counts as work!

5. Studying Hebrews. I've never looked at this book before, and it's also blowing my mind! I'm also really fortunate that I get to meet up with two absolute legends, Zac (legendary Staff Worker) and Judith (legendary Relay Worker) to look at it. We're really getting into it and, just like a fine wine, we're savouring it: 5 weeks of studying it and we're only in chapter 2.

Note: It should also be said that this also has absolutely nothing to do with persuading any final year students about doing Relay next year ;)

Saturday, 25 October 2008

Understanding the Trinity



I've just posted an abridged version of my first study response on understanding the Trinity over at threelay. Take a look and feel free to comment :)

Wednesday, 15 October 2008

Free - what it's all about

Monday, 29 September 2008

UMCU vid

My old CU, the University of Manchester Christian Union have been asking students on campus what they would ask God and who they think Jesus is.


They've also got a rather swish new website!

Tuesday, 23 September 2008

What is a CU?

A Call To Spiritual Reformation

I don't often read books that I can truthfully say have transformed the way I do things, but this is one of those books. Before, I thought I "got" prayer but after reading this I realise I didn't - it has transformed the way I think about and do prayer.

In eleven chapters, Don Carson takes us through Paul's prayers in his letters in the New Testament, showing us Paul's view of God, his view of prayer and how he prays before looking at lessons we can take and apply to our prayer lives.

One chapter I found particularly interesting and challenging was on how prayer relates to God's sovereignty and to our human responsibility.

If God is completely sovereign, do our prayers do anything? Put another way, if things are going to happen because God has decided they should, then surely they would happen without our prayers? How do we reconcile this with the fact that the Bible tells us we are to pray for things and that God answers these prayers?

I'm still thinking this through so don't hunt me down for any heresies below! But, I think the way that Carson explains it is as follows (this is from memory so it might not be accurate!)

  • If we pray for something, our prayers have already been ordained by God to happen at a certain time in order that they might bring about a certain result that he has already decided will happen.
  • If we don't pray for something, God has already decided that we wouldn't pray, and that result that might have been brought about had we prayed had already been ordained by God not to happen.
  • Therefore our prayer or lack of prayer from a human point of view brings about the result or lack of result - we are responsible for praying and to some extent whether or not something happens.
  • But, from God's point of view, as he is sovereign he has decided whether or not we should pray. He also decides whether or not to answer the prayer - he's not a machine! So the responsibility is 100% his for whether or not things happen in relation to prayers made or not made.
This is something that I have only just started thinking about in any depth, so I'd love to hear thoughts and I'm sure will come up again in a while when God's sovereignty is covered in my Relay study.

Either way, whether I've heresied above or not, please read this book. It's by Don Carson, and it's sound (but please don't take my word for it - always be Berean and check against the Bible!) and it will probably change the way you view prayer!

Call to Spiritual Reformation by Don Carson is available at IVP books, and has a much better cover than before. It will cost you about £10.

Wednesday, 10 September 2008

Just another blog in the blogosphere

Craig, Jez and I have just started threelay, a blog where we're writing about theology we've covered in our Relay study programme. Might be worth bookmarking/following/subscribing to!



Sunday, 24 August 2008

Some Interesting Discussions on Evangelism

There's some interesting blog posts on evangelism out there at the moment. They're all well worth a look...

Dave Bish explains how DISCO is the reason he doesn't do evangelism...

Hugh Bourne is thinking about how we need to engage with different student mindsets in our evangelism on campus... He's started by thinking about how we engage with students who are really success driven.

Mark Driscoll talks with Philip Jensen about Sydney and, amongst other things, how we're going to get young men into the church. He's talking specifically about Sydney, but I think some of it still applies to us here in the UK... (be warned this is a 25 min video!)

Gaz Leaney wonders how to teach the Bible effectively to people that struggle with reading...

Saturday, 23 August 2008

A Bit Of News On Holiday Club

For a bit of background to what I'm talking about, check out the third paragraph in this post.

Wow, what a week! Year 6s are seriously hard work at times, but are great fun to work with. We had about 30 mins each day to go through some key themes of what it is like to be a Christian. The whole week had an Olympics theme and we looked at how the Christian life is just like a race.

On the first day we looked at Paul's conversion and chatted about the good news that Jesus died for our sins. A few of the kids were really challenged by this and felt that they wanted to make a decision right there and then to become Christians - flipping exciting, bearing in mind this was just the first day!

On the second day we chatted about the need for communication with God through prayer and studying the Bible. Particularly cool to see them understand the need not to pray and bring everything to God that way and it was great to remind them that God speaks through the Bible - something young people can sometimes forget (or not even be told in the first place.)

Third day was all about persevering til the end of the race. We talked about why Paul was prepared to continue on his missionary travels even though there was a very real danger he would be killed.

Final day was all about being part of a team and the need for Christians to be part of a church. It was really cool to be able to dispel some crazy ideas they had about church and basically show them that the church exists to help us finish the race together and to bring other people into the race!

It was an exciting week - especially seeing some of my group become Christians! Its easy to forget how awesome, exciting and utterly absurd God's love for us is, but seeing people realise what God has done for them in Jesus is a pretty good reminder! It was also a real privilege to be able to show these kids really important things at the start of their Christian lives!

Monday, 18 August 2008

Time for an update

Well, it's almost a whole month since I posted on here so I think it's about time for an update. A few questions need answering: What have I been up to lately? What am I up to now? What will I be up to in the near future?

Over the Bay

In the past month I have been on a family holiday in Port de Pollenca, Mallorca. Apparently it was voted the best holiday destination by readers of Sunday Times in 2001. We already knew that it was nice as we've been there before. This time round was very pleasant, if a little bit on the hot side of things! The best bits of the holiday were being able to hang out and chat with my Dad and siblings, spend time chilling out before Relay and finally being able to start reading my way through my ever increasing pile of still to be read books.

This week I am helping out at my home church's holiday club, Go For Gold. We're going for an Olympic theme for the week and looking at the parallel between Christian life and running a race. We're looking at the life of Paul as shown in Acts, although how much depth you can go into that with children age 4-11 is debatable! I'm fortunate to be in the year 6 group with kids aged 11, so there should be some scope for opening the Bible and discussing things with them during our team times! If you're wondering about the Argentina flag below, each group is a country, and seeing as my co leader is Spanish and (much to her annoyance!) Spain was already taken, we decided on being Argentina!


As of August 26th I'm heading off up to the Quinta Conference Centre in Shropshire for Relay 1 - the conference that marks the official start of my year on Relay! I'm really looking forward to this coming year and I'm so excited that it's almost begun. I've not even started and I've already been challenged about how much I trust God: this year I have no other option than to cling God for help with my finances.

UCCF ay that ministry and living costs for a Relay worker add up to around £6000 and although I've raised part of this from working, most of this is coming from friends and family that want to support me during the year. Raising financial support is a strange thing to do - I know so many missionaries that would testify that God has provided for them, but when it comes to trusting God to provide for me, I often doubt that he's able to. I guess it's easy to trust a tight rope walker until you have to be carried across by one! Despite my embarassingly small amount of faith in him, I've seen God arrange for about 70% of the £6000 to come in which is really incredible and just shows that he is completely trustworthy and able to provide when it comes to these things.

I've read a bit about J Hudson Taylor this summer, and he summed it up nicely when he said "Our heavenly Father is a very experienced One. He knows very well that His children wake up with a good appetite every morning...He sustained 3 million Israelites in the wilderness for 40 years. We do not expect He will send 3 million missionaries to China; but if He did, He would have ample means to sustain them all...Depend on it, God's work done in God's way will never lack God's supply."

Sunday, 13 July 2008

Graduated by Works, Saved by Grace

I graduated last Thursday! It was a great day and I really enjoyed myself. I don't think I have ever been so proud as when my name was eventually called out and I walked up the steps, shook hands with a senior university man (no idea who he was, but he must have been important!) and claimed my degree certificate. All the work I had put in over the past three years had come to this point, and I was finally getting my reward!

The whole ceremony reminded me of Paul's final message to Timothy from 2 Timothy 4. For pretty much the whole book, Paul has been instructing Timothy as to how he should fulfil his duties as a minister and now Paul tells Timothy that the time of his death has come:

For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that Day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing.
Paul will soon die, but he will be awarded the crown of righteousness from the Lord, the righteous judge. He's being poured out as an offering, he's fought the good fight, he's finished the race, he's kept the faith. But he doesn't claim his reward in the same way that I claimed my degree certificate.

The passage says that the Lord is a righteous judge but it says that He gives the crown of righteousness to Paul, who is unrighteous (c.f. Acts 8:1-3) That really makes no sense at all! A righteous judge cannot say that someone unrighteous is righteous - it's logically impossible. And it's not just Paul that is unrighteous - the Bible says we have all done bad things, whether or not its persecuting the church or just plain ignoring God.

But this is where the wonderful news of the Christian gospel comes in. God makes the unrighteous righteous by taking their punishment onto himself at the cross and crediting Jesus' righteousness to them. So we have our punishment deserved for being unrighteous being dealt with and we're given Jesus' righteousness. It's absolutely amazing. This same crown will also be awarded to everyone who loves Christ!

So I compared being awarded my degree to being awarded the crown of righteousness. But in reality, they're not even remotely similar. I had to work for my degree certificate and it was a direct reflection of how well I did. But my crown of righteousness will be given to me from God as a gift and it has no bearing whatsoever on how well I do or how many times I screw up.

What an amazing thought. God gives crowns of righteousness to those that don't deserve them. Why? It's all down to God and his love for us. 1 John 4:10 says: "In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins." Wow.

So I've officially finished uni and now I can't wait until September when Relay starts. Then I get to get stuck into studying the Bible and being discipled and being continually amazed at what God has done for us! :)

Tuesday, 1 July 2008

Signs That You're Saved

I'm currently working my way through Colossians in preparation for Relay 1 in August - I reckon you could probably find a good few of us future Relay workers by looking to see who else is writing blog posts on Colossians :P
Ever wondered if you're saved? Maybe you've accepted Jesus and put your trust in him, but you're just waiting for that magical feeling that you've been accepted by him.Paul gives thanks in Colossians 1:3-5 for three characteristics he's heard of in the Colossian Christians. The three characteristics he refers to are faith in Christ, love for all the saints and hope in heaven. It's a pretty good checklist of things to look for to see if you're saved!
Faith in Christ
This is the consequence of the work of the Holy Spirit in someone, not the cause of it. How often do we think that our faith is something that we do? That's completely wrong - before, we were completely dead and blind; now, we have been given faith as a gift from God- our eyes have been opened and we have been shown that the Gospel is the truth. Thus if we have faith, it has been given to us by God and it is evidence that we are saved.
Love for all the Saints (other Christians)
Love can be an easy thing to do if you like the other person. If they're attractive, pleasant or fun to be around, it's easy. Try loving someone that is the opposite of that - someone who's different to you or who's hard to get on with - is hard. However, that is the essence of Christian love. It's a love that can only come from God. This love is what binds people who are so incredibly different into a unique fellowship called the church.
Hope in Heaven
This is the confidence that we as Christians have that whatever happens here on Earth, whether it's persecution, suffering or comfortable living, there are infinitely better things stored up in heaven. It's the hope that enables us to persevere and endure hard times or the hope that helps us from getting too materialistic and focussing too much on the here and now. Again this hope can only come from God, if you've got it you're saved!So, if you can see these things in your life, you're definitely saved and if you can see these things in your friends, they're definitely saved!

Note: updated 23/7/08 due to David pointing out my grammatical errors :/

Thursday, 26 June 2008

Some thoughts on University #2 - Witnessing

I finished university a couple of weeks back so I thought I would share some thoughts on university and how it has affected me. If you're at uni or starting uni in the Autumn, please listen to my advice!

I'm working in a school at the moment. It's great fun and a real eye opener. One of the things that has been really hard is sharing the gospel in a different work context. I've had a few opportunities to talk about what I believe with some of the other students that are doing the same placement as me, but I've not had any with the proper teachers, and this is a little bit annoying. One of the things that I've noticed that has harmed my witness to the teachers is when I see pupils who are Christians acting no differently to the other pupils by misbehaving in class and being rude to the teachers.

I remember one of my friends at church, a retired lecturer at the university, telling me of how frustrating it was for him to try and share the gospel with his colleagues and then for them not to take the gospel seriously because they'd come into contact with Christian students who had been a bad witness.

One of the reasons I'm not going to focus in too much on what the Christian boy at my school did is because I realise I've been absolutely no different.

At university, I wasn't a great witness to my teachers. I know of other Christian lecturers in the department wanting to share the gospel with their colleagues and how frustrated they must be when they saw me not handing in work, not trying hard in class, not treating my studies properly. I wasn't a terrible student, and I didn't do these things all the time, but I didn't study properly for the whole three years.

I think we as students can become so obsessed with being good witnesses to our fellow students that we can forget that the teaching staff need the gospel too. It might not be us that actually gets to share the gospel with them, but the way we act and treat our studies can have a bearing on whether those lecturers take the gospel seriously or not when they hear it.

Titus 2 talks of how good behaviour can "adorn the doctrine of God our Saviour" (2:10). It's not a replacement for sharing the gospel, but the way we act can underline the gospel. Conversely, the way we act can cause the word of God to be reviled (2:5) which is quite worrying really.

It's so important to remember, so I will say it again, whilst acting properly is not a replacement for the gospel, it can underline the gospel and if we're not acting properly, we can even cross it out.

So, what do I want you to remember? If you're a student, I'd really urge you to learn from my mistakes and take my advice: you can be a great witness to your teachers through the way you treat your work and your studies, so study hard, hand things in on time, don't lie and treat lecturers with respect!

Thursday, 19 June 2008

Eek. Unintended blog silence

Sorry! I've been rubbish at writing here in the past few weeks. After a complaint by one of my loyal readers, this is going to change :P

Some Thoughts on University #1 - Get stuck in to a Christian Union!

I finished university a couple of weeks back so I thought I would share some thoughts on university and how it has affected me. If you're at uni or starting uni in the Autumn, please listen to my advice!

When I started university I wasn't particularly serious as a Christian. I had been a Christian for my whole life, but it wasn't particularly important to me. Now that I have finished university, I can look back and safely say I have grown beyond my wildest dreams (or fears!) as a Christian over the past three years. My faith has deepened, my awe of God increased, my wonder at the Gospel greater.

I have no doubt that this is 100% down to the grace of God. But he has been working through the Christian Union at my university in doing this.

If I hadn't gone there, I would be much worse off:
  • I wouldn't have seen great Christian students living their lives for Jesus and been inspired to do the same.
  • I wouldn't have had the opportunities to grow as a leader and take the responsibility that comes with it. I wouldn't have made so many great Christian friends and had the joy of seeing them grow as leaders and evangelists and their love of God increase.
  • I wouldn't have had the amazing teaching from the Bible that I'm so fortunate to have had by some of the best speakers in the country.
  • I wouldn't have had the opportunity to try out evangelism with some really passionate student evangelists and learn from them and be inspired by them.
  • I wouldn't have had the joy of being part of a small non-believer's Bible study group and see one of the people come along place their hope for salvation in Christ.

In a nutshell, I would have missed out! Christian Unions are fantastic. If you are at university or starting university please join one and if you are part of one, but don't attend it regularly, please start attending!

As with most Christian things, you won't get much out of your CU if you don't serve it. My advice is to throw yourself in and help out! Here are some of the many things you could do:
  • Help lead an evangelistic Bible study!
  • Do some first contact evangelism!
  • Befriend and welcome international students!
  • Start a prayer group with some other Christians and pray for your non Christian mates!
  • Put on an evangelistic dinner!
  • Help the CU when it puts on evangelistic events!
  • Start a Christian book reading group with CU friends!
  • Help run your hall group!
  • Welcome freshers in September!
I hope and pray that you will do something and that through your involvement in a CU, you too will grow throughout your time at uni!

Tuesday, 13 May 2008

Keeping things in perspective

I'm right in the middle of revising for my final exams at university. As I'm sure you either remember or can imagine, its really easy to fall into the trap of getting worried and stressed about exams and completely lose perspective on it all.

Stuck near my desk I've got a small fridge magnet. At first glance it looks pretty insignificant and small. On it is a small triangle of brown papyrus with some unintelligible (to me at least!) writing in a strange language on it. On closer inspection you'd realise its a fridge magnet with a copy of the P52 John Rylands printed on it.



The papyrus shows John 18:31-33 which reads

ΕΙΠΕΝ ΟΥΝ ΑΥΤΟΙΣ Ο ΠΙΛΑΤΟΣ ΛΑΒΕΤΕ ΑΥΤΟΝ ΥΜΕΙΣ ΚΑΤΑ ΤΟΝ ΝΟΜΟΝ ΥΜΩΝ ΚΡΙΝΑΤΕ ΑΥΤΟΝ ΕΙΠΟΝ ΑΥΤΩ ΟΙ ΙΟΥΔΑΙΟΙ ΗΜΙΝ ΟΥΚ ΕΞΕΣΤΙΝ ΑΠΟΚΤΕΙΝΑΙ OYΔΕΝΑ ΙΝΑ Ο ΛΟΓΟΣ ΤΟΥ ΙΗΣΟΥ ΠΛΗΡΩΘΗ ΟΝ ΕΙΠΕΝ ΣΕΜΑΙΝΩΝ ΠΟΙΩ ΘΑΝΑΤΩ ΗΜΕΛΛΕΝ ΑΠΟΘΝΕΣΚΕΙΝ ΕΙΣΗΛΘΕΝ ΟΥΝ ΠΑΛΙΝ ΕΙΣ ΤΟ ΠΡΑΙΤΩΡΙΟΝ Ο ΠΙΛΑΤΟΣ ΚΑΙ ΕΦΩΝΗΣΕΝ ΤΟΝ ΙΗΣΟΥΝ ΚΑΙ ΕΙΠΕΝ ΑΥΤΩ ΣΥ ΕΙ ΒΑΣΙΛΕΥΣ ΤΩΝ ΙΟΥΔΑΙΩN
(the characters in bold are the ones that can be seen on the papyrus)
Or in English (if your ancient Greek is not so hot!)
'Pilate said to them, "Take him yourselves and judge him by your own law." The Jews said to him, "It is not lawful for us to put anyone to death." This was to fulfill the word that Jesus had spoken to show by what kind of death he was going to die. So Pilate entered his headquarters again and called Jesus and said to him, "Are you the King of the Jews?" '
The exciting thing is that the P52 papyrus is the earliest part of the New Testament that has been found to date. Apparently it was written between 125 and 160 AD, and I like to think it was written by someone that might have known someone who would have seen Jesus in the flesh.

I keep it on my desk where I can see it when I'm revising hard because it's a really good way of keeping things in perspective. The gospels were around before my revision and they will far outlast my degree. I'm doing my degree to improve my chances of getting a good career, but the gospels were written so that their readers might believe Jesus is Christ and have life in his name (John 20:31).

What's more, in the grand scheme of things exams and degrees really don't matter - when were in the new creation in millions of years time, will we still care about the degree we got? But the gospel is different. In millions of years time I'm sure we'll still be talking about when and where and how the Holy Spirit started opening our eyes, and when we put our trust in Christ and how he died on the cross for us...

Not to say that I'm not working hard though (revision is one of many ways to glorifying God) I'm just keeping things in perspective.

Sunday, 4 May 2008

Manchester Dead Theologians #1

The Manchester Dead Theologians Society met up for the first time yesterday. We meet semi regularly (every 5-6 weeks in uni term time) to discuss one of the great books written by the Puritans and Reformers in order to expand our understanding of Scripture and love for and devotion to our Lord and Saviour.

We had been reading (or at least the others had - more below!) Jonathan Edwards' History of the Work of Redemption and we had some good conversations! It sounded amazing and I'm pretty gutted I didn't decide to read it at the same time as the others!

I decided against reading the book because of a heavy work load (finals are fast approaching) and the fact that I've already got a whole bunch of Christian books to read... But as I said, I now wish I had read it, so I've just ordered the next book we'll discuss, Martin Luther's The Bondage of the Will.

I think I might start doing as C.S. Lewis' suggested: "It is a good rule, after reading a new book, never to allow yourself another new one till you have read an old one in between. If that is too much for you, you should at least read one old one to every three new ones."

Subscribe to the Manchester Dead Theologians blog to hear more of our thoughts and discussions on these books!

Monday, 28 April 2008

God's Part and Our Part in Evangelism

Have you...
...ever wondered about giving up sharing the gospel because no one seems to respond?
...ever thought about stopping trying to evangelise because as God is in control there's no point in us doing anything?

We have to remember that all the time, God is completely sovereign in evangelism:
  • He gave us the Gospel, the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes (Romans 1:16)
  • He convicts the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgement (John 16:8)
  • He gives repentance to people which leads to life - (Acts 5:31, 11:18, Ephesians 2:8)
This takes a huge weight off our shoulders: God, the sovereign God who created, sustains and directs the universe, has the responsibility of doing the hardest parts in evangelism. He convinces sinful humans - free willed creatures that are predisposed to be against God and against doing his will - to believe and trust in the Gospel, a series of events that happened two thousand years ago in a distant part of the world.

But although God is sovereign in evangelism, he has chosen to use Christians as his tools:
  • We are to share the gospel - after all how can people believe in him they haven't heard? (Romans 10:13-17)
What are the implications for us of all of this?

We should persevere! We are told to just share the gospel. God does the hard work in the people we share it with. God is infinitely powerful and is sovereign. If he wants to save someone, he will do. Paul says in (2 Tim 2:8-10) that he endures everything (he was in jail for doing evangelism) for the sake of the elect (the people that God has decided to save) that they may obtain salvation. We should persevere in our evangelism because our evangelism won't fail - God will save those that he has decided to save.

We should pray! We are told to share the gospel. God does the hard work. But our part can be hard and we should pray about it and for it. In Acts 4:29-31, the church in Jerusalem prayed for boldness to continue to speak whilst they were facing opposition in evangelism. God granted them boldness and they continued evangelising! In Ephesians 6:18-20, Paul asks for prayer for him to have words to share the gospel boldly. I think it's a real encouragement that even Paul asked God for help in evangelism - none of us should be doing this in our own strength, but rather we should ask God to equip us!

We should do it! We are told to share the gospel. God does the hard work. Jesus tells his disciples in Matthew 28:18-20 to go out and share the gospel. We must obey Jesus in this. We need to always be looking for opportunities to share the gospel.

Tuesday, 22 April 2008

Theological Word of the Day

Parchment and Pen have a theological word of the day which you can sign up to recieve in your email inbox each day. It's a great way to find more out about theology in tiny bitesize chunks - one theological term a day and a very brief paragraph explaining its meaning!

Suffering

A few guys at my church recently wrote a new song. I really like it - check out the mp3 here.

One Day


The Lamb, God’s only son, bled and died, suffering Saviour.
Crucified, the sinless One took the wrath of the Father.
When despised for his name’s sake we share in his sufferings.
Unashamed, we strive for joy, looking on to his returning.

We will: set our hope in Jesus Christ our Lord,
And in a grace that never fades;
Lift our heads and see the rejected One
Now glorious.

New birth, a gift of love, undeserved but given freely.
So rejoice, though the road is hard, honour God with praise and glory.
All trials refine our faith, they have come to mature us.
Persevere, count them as joy. Take your cross and follow Jesus.

And one day our God will wipe every tear from our eyes (x2)

(c) Owen Hughes, Jeremy Poyner and David Tubbs, 2008.

Monday, 21 April 2008

Young, Restless and Reformed

Dave Bish reviews Young, Restless and Reformed. Seems like its an interesting read. I think its written about things in the US, but to be fair I think I'll run out of fingers and toes several times over when I try and count people I know who fit the title here in Manchester, UK.

How Marvellous is My Saviour's Love For Me!

Isn't it great that Jesus was more Terminator 2 than Terminator 1? He could have come to Earth and punished us for our failure to live our lives in the way that God has said we should. Instead he came to save us by dieing on the cross, taking that very punishment on himself that he could have dished out.
-- Phil Keymer
At The Plant on Sunday we listened to one of the most challenging talks and encouraging talks I think I have ever heard. Phil Keymer was preaching on Matthew 9:1-17 - explaining the reasons for which Jesus came. Here's a brief summary of what we covered.

Forgiving sin is the reason Jesus came (v1-8)

Sin is putting someone in God's place. It's what we all do, whatever we put in God's place it is a result of putting ourself in God's place first. It's our biggest problem - here Jesus forgives a paralysed man of his sins, as his biggest problem was his sin not his paralysis. It's the same for us: our biggest problem is our sin and we are as helpless before it as the paralysed man was with his paralysis.

Jesus is the solution to this problem. Only God has the authority to forgive sins (v3) - as sin is putting God out of his place, then obviously only he can forgive it. But Jesus has the authority to forgive sin (v4-7, c.f. Matthew 1:21) and on our part only faith is required (v2,8).

Thats why Jesus came for sinners (v9-13)

Jesus came for people who need forgiveness, in other words he came for everyone as we are all sinners. Jesus also came for those who want forgiveness. Surprisingly, not everyone does want forgiveness - the problem with the Pharisees was that they were more concerned with sacrifices than with mercy. God doesn't care for religious stuff at all, he wants people to care for and help sinners, like he does.

Jesus came for sinners like us. Thus we should be profoundly sorry, grateful, humble and hopeful. We can be profoundly sorry as we know we are forgiven. This will manifest in that we repent from our sins. We can be profoundly grateful as Jesus didn't come into the world to punish us, instead he came to save us. We can be profoundly humble before God and each other because as we are all sinners we can only compare ourselves to Jesus, who was sinless. We can be profoundly hopeful as God doesn't just give us a future, he gives us a wonderful sin - with no sin and no consequences of sin.

That's how Jesus revolutionises relating to God (v14-17)


It's right to mourn over our sins and our sinfulness (v14), but not at the expense of rejoicing because Jesus has died and risen so that our sins could be forgiven (v15.) The new way to relate to God is only by faith in Jesus Christ, not by religious observance, not by national identity and not by moral acceptability. By faith, relating to God is unrelated to sin!

But why did Jesus come to Earth to do all this? Because God is love and this is how much He loves us, that he sent his Son to be a propitiation (a sacrifice that makes us right) for our sins! (1 John 4:10)

Selling all you have for that hidden treasure

The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. In his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys the field. Matthew 13:44.

God is so, so amazing that anything and everything, every concern and desire is worth sacrificing joyfully for the sake of knowing Him better and as a response for being counted as His!

Where are they?

Simon from The Musing Field wonders with Howard Guinness about reckless service:

Where are the young men and women of this generation who will hold their lives cheap (Rev 12v11), and be faithful even unto death?
Where are those who will lose their lives for Christ’s sake – flinging them away for love of Him?
Where are those who will live dangerously, and be reckless in His service (Acts15v26)?
Where are his lovers – those who love Him and the souls of men more than their own reputations or comfort, or very life?
Where are the men who say “no” to self, who take up Christ’s cross to bear it after Him who are willing to be nailed to it in college or office, home or mission field; who are willing, if need be, to bleed, to suffer, and to die on it?
Where are the men and women of vision today?
Where are the men of enduring vision?
Where are the men and women who have seen the King in His beauty, by whom from henceforth all else is counted but refuse that they may win Christ?
Where are the adventurers, the explorers, the buccaneers for God who count one human soul of far greater value than the rise or fall of an empire?
Where are the men who glory in God-sent loneliness, difficulties, persecutions, misunderstandings, discipline, sacrifice, death?
Where are the men and women who are willing to pay the price of vision?
Where are the men and women of prayer?
Where are the men and women who, like the Psalmist of old, count God’s Word of more importance to them than their daily food?
Where are the men and women who, like Moses of old, commune with God face to face as a man speaks with his friend, and unmistakably bear with them the fragrance of the meeting through the day?
Where are God’s men and women in this day of God’s power?
Howard Guiness, Sacrifice, IVP

Saturday, 19 April 2008

How to spice up your testimony

One of the things that has really struck me today is just how frequently I think my testimony is dull. I wonder how many people have a similar testimony to mine:

I was brought up in a Christian family, attended a good church from my birth and was a really well behaved kid. Having said all that, I was never particularly interested in Christianity as a kid and treated church as one of the many chores I had to do along with brushing my teeth and having a bath.

I definitely didn't have a dramatic conversion by any stretch of the imagination. To be perfectly honest, I can't even remember when I became serious about Christianity, but it was probably somewhere between 11 and 18. During that time, God gradually revealed so much about him to me through hearing good talks at church, through looking at the Bible in various Christian youth groups and through the witness of Christians at church and my Christian parents at home.

As I said, it wasn't dramatic, I just gradually became more and more aware of how I had removed God from his correct position in my life - being God. In my life, I was living as if I was the most important thing, I did things my way and definitely not God's. This definitely didn't lead to crime or anything really bad, but I just treated myself as being the most important person in my life.

I begun to realise that this really wasn't good and that as the Bible says, displacing God from his positon in this way is rebellion against God and it was going to end up like rebellion against a king - with punishment being dished out on the rebels for their rebellion.

At some stage I decided to place my trust in Jesus to save me from the punishment I deserved for my rebellion. I realised that I couldn't just stop rebelling - I was physically incapable of not living with myself at the centre of my life. I understood that Jesus had died on the cross and that when he did, he had taken the punishment for my rebellion, and that if I trusted in him, my punishment would be dealt with and I would be made alright with God.

I also understood that when you put this type of trust in Jesus, God does something strange - he makes you more and more able to live with him at the centre of your life. It has finally become possible to stop rebelling against God. Having said that, even ten (or so!) years on I still slip up and go back into living with myself as the most important person in the whole world. The good thing is that Jesus took the punishment for this once and for all.

Nowadays I still trust Jesus to save me from my rebellion. I'm getting better at living with God as the most important person in my life, which in practise takes the form of acting as he says in the Bible and not doing things my way. I still struggle though and it's really hard to not slip up and resort to living the way I used to.
To be fair, it's no Paul conversion is it?! Sometimes I've been a little bit ashamed of my testimony and tried to spice it up by making myself seem a little bit worse before I became a Christian. So are you wondering like me about how you can spice up your testimony?

How to spice up your testimony

Sorry for the anti-climax. Actually, I'm not at all! I can't tell you how to spice up your testimony and make it more exciting because my testimony is already incredible and so is yours (if you're a Christian!) There's need (or way) to make it any more exciting or impressive - it is already as impressive as it can possibly be.
And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.

But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ— by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.
Get this: God loves you so much that he chose you before time to save you when you were dead in your sins and trespasses (your rebellion) and on top of this, he has raised you up to the same level of Jesus Christ - God's own Son. If that's not exciting enough, you don't have to do anything except believe it - you are saved by God's amazing unconditional love and it was by his initiative, you haven't done anything to deserve it.

One word: wow.

Saturday, 12 April 2008

Can Media Coverage Usher in Revival?

Josh Harris on the media spotlight falling on Christianity after American Idol contestants sung "My Jesus, My Saviour":

"But I think that it's too easy for Christians to think that any moment in the media spotlight on TV or in film is a bigger deal than it really is. We should welcome any opportunity for media to help spread the good news about Jesus, but I don't think we should put too much stock in that vehicle. The gospel is going to advance as it always has—steadily as it is clearly proclaimed by believers in their words and modeled by their lives and actions. The gospel advances as local congregations receive and live God's word for their neighbors to see."

Friday, 11 April 2008

Forgetting our first love

At UMCU we have just started a short series of talks in our Wednesday Evening Meetings looking at the messages to the churches in Asia Minor. On Wednesday we looked at the message to the church in Ephesus in Revelation 2:1-7.

Ephesus was one of the great churches at the time in one of the great cities in the world. They had had fantastic teaching from Paul, Apollos, Priscilla, Aquilla (and possibly John.) They are enduring patiently, they are toiling and working, they are bearing up for the sake of Christ and are not growing weary and God commends them for this. But one of the things that really struck me was that, despite all this good, God told them not to forget their first love. If they didn't repent and do the things they did at first, God would remove his presence from them. They'd become guilty of turning their relationship with Jesus into an intellectual philosophy or an assortment of things to do, and if they didn't change, God would remove his presence from them. They were going to die spiritually from the inside out unless they changed.

I think this warning still applies today - look around at the many churches that still meet on Sundays but rather than meeting in God's presence, are just going through the motions. How tragic is it that these people are just meeting up and going through the motions, when maybe just a few centuries ago they might have been meeting with God's presence amongst them... There could be many reasons for why churches end up like this, but surely some must have died spiritually as a result of not heeding God's warning at forsaking their first love.

Are we guilty of this too? Have we become so much about doing things and knowing things that we've forgotten the awe and wonder that we first experienced when we came to know Christ as our Lord and Saviour? Personally and as a CU we were all really challenged to remember that first love, that first awe and wonder at the gospel - that we can come empty handed to a God of grace and holiness for forgiveness because of Jesus Christ's death and resurrection.

Thursday, 10 April 2008

So much more than just a meeting...

Earlier today my staff worker and I met up with a couple of guys from Bolton University Christian Union (where I will be doing Relay next year!) to discuss and plan for Freshers Week in September. It was a really exciting time of thinking about what we could do, but it was particularly exciting seeing them realise the vision of what Christian Unions are all about - students reaching students with the gospel.

Out of this understanding, it becomes obvious that being in a CU is so much more than just meeting up with other Christian students once a week to pray, sing songs and hear a talk... it's about praying for each other, supporting each other, training each other and encouraging each other to share the gospel with our fellow students in the universities, halls and departments has put us in!

Roll on September!

Tuesday, 8 April 2008

Hymns Rule #2

Jesus let thy pitying eye
Call back a wandering sheep.
False to Thee like Peter, I
Would fain, like Peter, weep.
Let me be by grace restored;
On me be all it’s freeness shown
Turn and look upon me Lord;
And break my heart of stone
And break my heart of stone.

Saviour, Prince, enthroned above,
Repentance to impart,
Give me, through Thy dying love,
The humble, contrite heart;
Give what I have long implored,
A portion of Thy love unknown;
Turn, and look upon me, Lord,
And break my heart of stone.
And break my heart of stone.

Look, as when Thy pitying eye
Was closed that we might live;
“Father,” at the point to die
My Saviour cried, “forgive!”
Surely, with that dying word,
He turns, and looks, and cries, “’Tis done!”
O my bleeding, loving Lord,
This breaks my heart of stone!
This breaks my heart of stone!

Listen on myspace.

This Breaks My Heart of Stone

Taken from the Gadsby Hymnal # 390

Words – Charles Wesley, 1749

Music – Benj Pocta, 2006.
© 2007 Red Mountain Music

www.redmountainmusic.com

Monday, 7 April 2008

Hymns Rule!

I love hymns. I love singing timeless truths about Christ which have been sung for hundreds of years. I love the way that hymns are jam packed with theology, unlike many (although not all) contemporary Christian songs. I love realising that I am part of a church which spans millenia when I sing these songs along with the church through the ages. I also love that the men and women that wrote these timeless songs were no different to us: they lived for Jesus and spoke for Jesus, they suffered but persevered, they loved theology and clamoured to know their Lord and Saviour better.

Recently I came across Red Mountain Church from the US and found some of their music online. They also love hymns and have been playing them to really cool new music. Over the next week or so, I'm going to post some of their lyrics and MP3 clips of their songs for you to listen to and ponder the words. Enjoy!

Hymns Rule #1

There is a land of pure delight,
Where saints, immortal reign.
Infinite day excludes the night
And pleasures banish pain.

Could we but climb where Moses stood
And view the landscape o’er.
Not Jordan’s streams north death’s cold flood
Should fright us from this shore.

There everlasting spring abides,
And never withering flowers:
Death, like a narrow sea, divides
This heav’nly land from ours.

O could we make our doubts remove,
Those gloomy thoughts that rise,
And see the Canaan that we love
With unbeclouded eyes!

MP3


There Is A Land of Pure Delight
Taken from the Gadsby Hymnal # 1022
Words – Issac Watts, 1707
Music – Brian T. Murphy and Benj Pocta, 2006.
© 2007 Red Mountain Music
www.redmountainmusic.com

Practical Teaching of the Day

Do not store up treasure for yourself here on Earth where termites can eat it. Instead store it up in heaven where its safe from termites.

Thursday, 3 April 2008

Free



I've blogged about this in the past, now at last we can all see pictures!










Coming soon to a Christian Union near you! For more info, check out the Facebook Page or www.uccf.org.uk

Tuesday, 1 April 2008

The need for Jesus to die on the Cross and what it did

I had the privelege today of going and doing a Bible study with the Bolton University Christian Union, who I will be working with next year as part of my Relay year. I really enjoyed the Bible study and meeting them, and as a result I am really looking forward to helping them out next year!

We were looking at the cross in Romans 3:9-26, here is a summary of my notes and some of my thoughts on the passage.

The need for Jesus to die on the cross

In this passage Paul tells us straight away that everyone is under sin - both Jews and Greeks (who we can take to refer to all non-Jews) - no one is free of sin. Being under sin means that we are slaves to sin. Sin is our master, our slave driver. We are stuck in submission to it and just like a slave, we have no means whatsoever to rid ourselves of our master's power over us.

But what is sin? If you asked someone on the street what they thought they might say murder, rape or theft. They'd tell you that sin is the bad things we do against other people. Pressed hard enough, they might say that sin is something bad you do to yourself, such as gorging yourself on chocolate cake.

But verses 10-18 say a great deal about what the God views sin as. The list can basically be split into four types of sin - the sins of not seeking God, the sins of not being righteous, the sins of speech and the sins of violence to others. These are not the only types of sins by any stretch of the imagination, but it is a list of things most of us have done. Have you ever told a lie? Have you ever caused ruin or misery to someone else by something you've done? I sure have. At the start and finish of this list, like a pair of bookends, there are the two lines "no one seeks God" and "there is no fear of God before their eyes". Whether or not the rest of the list of sins applies to you, I'm certain these two will do. No one can say to themselves that they've sought God all the time and lived and worshipped God all the time. So sin is not just things against other people, it is our attitude to God - whether or not we have sought to know him all the time and worshipped him the whole time.

But what about the Law (the Ten Commandments) surely that will make people okay with God? Wrong. Verse 19 says that the Law only speaks to those under the Law, namely the Jews. But even that was given to show peoples' sins - through the Law comes knowledge of sin. V19 also says that the world will be held accountable to God. If you flick back to chapter 2 verse 12, you'll see that it says that all who have sinned without the law (non Jews) will perish without the law, and all who have sinned under the law (Jews) will be judged by the law. But chapter 3 verse 19 says that every mouth will be stopped when we are all held accountable to God - we won't have any defence when we die and are judged by God.

This is all terrible news for us as a human race. Firstly, we are all slaves to sin and as we are unable to liberate ourselves from it, we continue sinning without a choice. Secondly, we see that we are guilty of sinning in pretty much everything we do. Thirdly, when we die and face God we have no defence for how we have spent our lives. This is a bad situation - we are facing judgement from an infinitely powerful and perfect judging God. But please don't stop reading here - there is some incredibly good news.

The outworking of what Jesus did when he died on the cross

The God of the Bible is not only infinitely powerful and a perfect judge, he has an infinite amount of love for us. Verse 21 starts off by proclaiming that "the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the Law ... through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe." Let's start to unpack what that means.

This righteousness comes from God. Which is good news, because we are slaves to sin and are unable to be righteous because of our slavery. God literally has to make us righteous because we can't do it ourselves.

It comes through what Jesus Christ did on the cross. Verse 24 talks of God putting "Jesus Christ forward as a propitiation by his blood." To propitiate is to make someone favourable to you - it used to happen all the time in pagan religions where pagans would sacrifice to their gods to make them favourable to them. Here it is the same thing with one crucial difference - God is propitiating himself towards us. He put forward Jesus as a propitiation through his blood.

To understand what happened on the cross it is necessary to look at Leviticus chapter 16. This part of the Bible talks about what the Israelite High Priests were to do on the Day of Atonement. In verses 1-3 we see God warning Aaron (the High Priest) not to come into a particular part of the tent where God was as Aaron would die. This is a result of God being both a perfectly good and pure God and Aaron being a human being and thus tainted with sin. Pure and non pure cannot mix with the pure being tainted. As God is God, he cannot be tainted and can't stand non pure - our sin must go, which means we must die. But before we start to think that God is nasty, he provides a way around this problem. In verses 11-19, we see God describing to Aaron how he must kill a goat and a bull to make atonement for his and Israel's sins. The sacrifices both take away Israels sins and satisfy God's anger against sin as the bull and goat have been given the punishment that Israel deserved for their sins - death. It reconciles Israel to God again, making them at one (this is the route of the word Atonement.) However, this is not a perfect sacrifice as it needed to be done every year...

Jesus death on the cross works in the same way as the death of the bull and goat, making atonement for our sins - it propitiates God and makes him favourable to us, as well as just taking the punishment for our sins. It makes us righteous again in God's eyes - our sins have been dealt with and God is favourable to us again.

On a side issue, there has been much controversy recently about whether or not what God did to Jesus constitutes child abuse. This is a very strange point of view - Jesus was both part of the Trinity and is thus God (therefore he planned the cross with the Father and the Holy Spirit) and he willingly died on the cross (Mark 14:36.) Maybe I'll blog on this in the future, in the meantime there are many good books on the matter for you to read or borrow.

Verse 24 tells us how Jesus' death on the cross not only affects our legal standing before God, but also redeems us from slavery to sin. We are now free from the power of sin which means we don't habitually sin and are not opposed to God in everything we do. When you see Christians doing good things - this is not them trying to earn forgiveness, but it is merely a result of what Jesus did on the cross in redeeming them from the power of sin. Please note that I have used the phrase free from the power of sin rather than free of sin - Christians still sin as they aren't completely free of sin, but as they mature as Christians they become more likely to withstand the temptations that sin gives out.

The great news of this passage is that this righteousness that God has provided is for everyone. It is a free gift from God which is received by faith. All that needs to be done is for you to believe what this passage says is true and realise that you are guilty of sinning and trust Jesus to make you right before God. It sounds simple. It really is. The hard work was done by Jesus on the cross. Not to say that being a Christian is easy, because it really isn't. I'll blog some more on that in the future. In the meantime find a Christian and ask them what it's like to live as a Christian.

Finally, verse 25 and 26 show us that Jesus dieing on the cross was absolutely essential. This is why Christians bang on about it so much (like I am doing right now!) Jesus dieing on the cross is the way that God can justify us and remain perfectly just himself. It's the way that he can be patient and allow peoples sins to go unpunished for the meantime and not judge people immediately for them.


So, maybe this has got you thinking, maybe it hasn't. Feel free to discuss below. I'll try and answer any questions. If you want to find out more about Jesus and Christianity, pick up a copy of the Bible, look for the Gospel of Mark (about three quarters the way through) and read it. There you'll see a written eyewitness account of Jesus' life and death and some of his teachings. If you can't find a copy of it, there's plenty online

Friday, 28 March 2008

The second question - How can I know God?

Asking how you can know God is probably the second most important question after asking whether or not he exists. If you asked the UK public, the answers given would be incredibly varied. Someone might tell you that they find God in themselves, or in nature, another might say that they find God in a particular tradition or ceremony, some people might even tell you that God is so far above us, that we can't really know him at all.

The Bible says otherwise, John 1 tells us of a character called the Word. The Word was both God and was with God. He was in the beginning with God, and through him all things were made. Later on in the chapter, it becomes apparent that this Word is Jesus Christ. But why does John use this Word codename for Jesus? It's probably to do with what words do - they communicate a message. The Word came from God to communicate a message.

Later in the chapter, we are told that a man called John (the Baptist) was sent by God to witness to this Word as he came into the world. Here the Word is referred to as the true light which comes into the world to enlighten everyone. Why does John use this Light codename for Jesus? What do lights do? They reveal and enlighten things. The True Light came from God to reveal and enlighten.

A few verses on, in verse 14, we are told that the "Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth." When Jesus came into the world he came full of grace and truth.

But why was this necessary? Surely we can find out about God on our own without any help from Jesus? A helpful illustration is to think of yourself being locked in a room. There are no windows. There are no doors, and thus no keyholes to look through. You have absolutely no idea what is outside and you can't hear anything because the walls are so thick. Where are you?

You might think that the room you're in is in the middle of a jungle - because it just feels like your in jungle. Your friend who is sitting next to you might disagree, he thinks that you're in the middle of Manchester - again, it just feels like it is. But you can't prove anything, one might be right, but there's no way of knowing as there's no evidence. The only way to find out what's outside the room would be for someone outside to break in and tell you. Its impossible to know otherwise.

This is what this part of John tells us Jesus did - verse 18 says "no one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father's side, he has made him known." Jesus broke into our world to show us God and make him known.

So, if we want to know about God, we have to look to God to tell us rather than to listen to what people tell us. The Bible makes the staggering claim that Jesus is God - look at verse 1 of this passage - and thus if we want to know God we need to look at Jesus.

Where can you look at Jesus? A good place to start is one of the written eyewitness accounts of Jesus' life in the Bible. Mark is a good bet if you haven't read the Bible before. If you haven't got a copy of the Bible, there are a few options: there are a few websites on the internet that have all the text online, or if you are in a university, look out for the CU (United Kingdom), GBU (France, Spain, Italy), SMD (Germany), OSM (Austria) as they'd be more than happy to give you a free copy and meet up to read it with you.

Wednesday, 26 March 2008

Seven

The IFES European Evangelism Conference 2008 is over :( I'm back home in boring old England so I thought I'd share seven highlights of the conference. I'll elaborate on some of them in the coming days when I'm slightly less tired.



  1. Easter - celebrating that Christ has risen with 2000 brothers and sisters that I've never met from every bit of Europe. Being excited by the fact that as Christians, we have not only a new legal standing before God the Father - we are forgiven because of Jesus' death, but that he has actually changed our hearts - we are now alive in his ressurection.
  2. Looking at The Creation, The Exodus, The Exile and Return and the Coming of Jesus in the Bible with Charlie Hadjiev every morning. One word: wow. Look out for some blogging on this in the very near future!
  3. Becky Pippert (author of Out of the Saltshaker) showed us how that because of God's love for us we are to love others and love the world. Again look out for much blogging!
  4. Meeting so many other students from around Europe who just want to see their campuses hear the gospel and believe in it.
  5. The hilariously random Eurovision style meeting leaders and people on the stage. Quotes including e.g. "Come on!" "1,2,3... Yeah, yeah yeaaaah!" "You can sit down now!" "DEATH WHERE IS YAW STANG?!" "Actually I think it was the grace of God!" -- I guess you just had to be there...
  6. Hearing about the work of other IFES national movements from students in those countries and being excited about what God is doing in universities around Europe - God has definitely not forgotten Europe.
  7. Snow snow snow!!!!

Friday, 14 March 2008

Something useful for your internet browser

Those friendly people at Tyndale House have designed and released a Internet browser toolbar to help students study the Bible better. I'm in the process of installing it now, so can't really comment, but it looks pretty useful. Amongst other things, with it you can search and translate ancient and modern languages, search for book and articles and look up bible passages. It can be downloaded here.


Tuesday, 11 March 2008

Because of Love 2008

I just mentioned that I was looking forward to a certain IFES conference which will be happening over Easter in Linz. Hopefully, this video will help you see why! Please be praying for all the many thousands of students and graduates who will be there, that God would use this conference to build us up and equip us to take the gospel back to our universities!


Three days and counting....

The Easter vacation is upon us. Three whole weeks of university free bliss (apart from all the studying for my finals...) in three days time! Here's what I'm most looking forward to


Cross

  1. Celebrating in and reflecting on the amazing events that took place in and around Jerusalem roughly two thousand years ago that mean that I (and millions of others around the world and back in time) are made right with God - firstly, the punishment we deserve for ignoring God and living as if we're the most important thing in the world was paid for at the cross, secondly, we are now not only made right with God, but we are his adopted sons and co-heirs with Christ, thirdly, this wasn't because we've done anything to deserve it - quite the opposite, God loved us so much that when we were his enemies, Jesus died for us - it is by his grace alone. The list of Easter time amazing-ness goes on and on... for more info on what I am very excited about, read Romans 3:9-26!
  2. Seeing my family! Haven't seen my family since Christmas, and am looking forward to seeing them again!
  3. Seeing friends! I've not seen some of my best mates since a very cold and disappointing New Years Eve in London where we failed to see any fireworks...

    DSCF2441

  4. Getting into some good Christian books! I'm planning on reading Pierced for our Transgressions and then hacking through A Call to Spiritual Reformation. It's pretty ambitious, seeing as I have a terrible habit of getting half way through books and then not getting any further...
  5. Because of Love - IFES European Evangelism Conference in Linz, Austria. Heading out to a part of the world I've never visited before with a bunch of like minded students from across Europe who also want to see their campuses hear the good news of Jesus. Its going to be ace!

Friday, 7 March 2008

Fantastic news

Fantastic news from the recent UMCU Grill a Christian event. God is great!

Wednesday, 5 March 2008

Bloggery Silence

I apologise for this! Have got rather a lot on my plate right now, but will blog again in a few days. :)

Thursday, 28 February 2008

Being a part of someone elses evangelistic efforts

Two amazing things have happened this past week. You may remember that I posted a while back about a conversation I had with some Muslims about the gospel. It turns out that one of the girls I spoke to is a friend of Fay, one of the girls in CU. Later that week, they ended up having a really indepth conversation about the gospel in which Fay was able to explain to this girl how it all works! How amazing is that? There I was thinking I was talking to some random students, but God was working behind the scenes so that the conversation we had was the catalyst for the opportunity that Fay needed to be able explain the gospel to her friend!

The second amazing thing that happened this week was that I got to explain the gospel to my Personal Tutor at university! Wow! He told me that his sister recently became a Christian and although he read the Bible a bit over Christmas he couldn't understand how to reconcile it with his scientific understanding of the world. He had loads of questions which I was able to help with. I went in expecting to get my exam results (I did!) but I left having also told him the gospel and how I could believe in it as a scientist. I suspect that this conversation wasn't a flash in the pan conversation but part of a much bigger evangelism chain that his sister had already started - I'd be very surprised if it wasn't his sister who'd encouraged him to read the Bible over Christmas.

These two things made me think. Jesus talks in John 4 about how one person sows and another reaps. Chains of evangelistic opportunities will happen in peoples lives - I've been part of two this past week! This has really encouraged me. We're not working individually in sharing the gospel with people - in the same way that I was able to explain the gospel to someone's friend or relative, there are people out there who might be right this instant explaining the gospel to my friends!

After very few proper opportunities to explain the gospel to friends back home before I left for university I'm tempted to feel like giving up on any hope of seeing them come to faith in Jesus. But how wrong is it of me to think like that?

If you've had a similar experience to me, pray for your friends! I'm praying for my mates. We should obviously seek opportunities to continue explaining the gospel to them, but we should also be praying for them and expecting someone to come into their lives to explain the gospel to them! God is more than capable of bringing people into their lives who can continue explaining the gospel to them!

But before we start to think that we can forget about doing evangelism ourselves, flip this idea around. Do you ever have random opportunities to share the gospel with people you come into contact with? Do you ever pass up on these opportunities, thinking it's not really your place to tell them the gospel or that it's not a good time? I know I am definitely guilty of this. But just think, this person I have come across might be just one conversation away from putting their faith in Christ - how do I know? Telling the gospel to this person might be an answer to someone else's prayers or it might be a catalyst for someone else closer to them to be able to explain the gospel!

So next time you have an opportunity to share the gospel with someone, do it! And if you lose contact with friends, don't lose hope of them coming across Christians and hearing the gospel again - pray for God to bring people into their lives who will share the good news with them!

Friday, 22 February 2008

Some thoughts on 2 Peter

By now I'm sure you must be aware that I spent the past weekend at the UCCF New Leaders Training in Liverpool. Throughout the weekend, Tim Rudge (UCCF Field Director) opened 2 Peter to us in four talks. Unfortunately I missed the first talk on 1:1-11 (any ideas for where I could get an mp3 would be appreciated!) but here is a brief summary of what I learnt from the talks. Any thoughts/comments much appreciated!

True Truth

Tim showed us in the talk on 2 Peter 1:12-21 that the gospel is a true truth which we need to remind ourselves of iso that we should become established in it.

But how do we know it is true?
  • 1:16-18 show us that Peter and the other apostles were witnesses to Christ's majesty at the transfiguration (Mk 8:34-9:10) and that they heard God quote Psalm 2 over Jesus during the event. This quote shows that Jesus is indeed God's promised Son who had finally come and will rule and judge the world.
  • Peter also writes in 1:19-21 that the church has something even more sure than their testimony in the fact that the Scriptures were both inspired by the Holy Spirit and the people that wrote it down were carried along by the Spirit whilst they were writing it. It was God's exact words that they wrote down and it was God making sure that they wrote them down accurately.
And since we know that it is true, we need to remind ourselves of the gospel so that we might become established in it. We must be studying the Bible each day.

Dodgy Dealers

The second chapter of 2 Peter is a warning passage. It doesnt say to do anything, rather it tells us to watch out for false teachers. If we are to become established in the gospel, we must be on our guard for false teachers who twist the scriptures.

But what do false teachers teach? 2:1-3 says they deny the Master who bought them, but what could that entail?
  • They might deny the work of Christ . This could be by either adding to it, saying that Jesus' death and resurrection is not sufficient for our salvation, or by taking away from it, saying that Jesus was not God.
  • They might deny the sovereignty of Christ. This could be in saying that Jesus won't return to rule the planet and judge it.
  • They might deny the salvation of Christ. This could be in saying that God has freed us and therefore we are free to sin as much as we like.
They will do it by secretly introducing destructive heresies, taking people to hell. They will be in churches, and the elect might be convinced enough to be thoroughly shaken, but as Mark 13 points out, it won't be possible for the elect to be led astray.

Look at the contrast, the gospel truth purifies (1 Pt 1:22ff) but twisted truth taught by false teachers will deceive people and lead them astray.

But Peter encourages nervous Christians, God will judge these people. 2:4-9 show that God will judge
  • the powerful. Angels are powerful and impressive, but they are held in chains if they disobey. The powerful and impressive false teachers will be held in chains too.
  • the popular. Noah preached righteousness and people despised and ignored him. God judged the more popular people in the world and will judge the popular false teachers.
  • the blatant. God rescued Lot from a burning city where the sin was so blatant. God will save his people from blatant false teachers and will judge those false teachers.
But we were reminded to remember this with humility and not arrogance. We shouldn't be judging people inside the Christian Unions for doing things differently - one of the strengths of the CUs in our universities is that they are non denominational and we agree on what matters (maybe sometime soon I shall write a post about what it is worth agreeing to disagree over and what isn't worth agreeing to disagree over in our CUs, as it is good to be reminded!)

Glorious Hope

2 Peter 3 reminds us that throughout all our trials (which we will face) with false teachers we have this glorious hope of the return of Christ for which we can truly look forward to.

But sceptics will scoff about it. 3:1-4 says that they will use a couple of arguments, but will ultimately be motivated by their own evil desires. They might use the argument of time - ever had someone ask you mockingly "Where is Christ?" or "When will he return?" this is what he's talking about! Or they might use the argument of observation, pointing out that "there's no evidence for there being a God."

In both cases, the sceptics ignore some pretty key stuff. 3:5-10 shows us what they ignore.
  • The time argument forgets that God has a different relationship to time than we have - with him, a day is a thousand years and a thousand years is one day (3:8). He is also patient, not wishing anyone to perish and allowing everyone to have an opportunity to repent, so he restrains his anger for the time being, although Christ will return one day to judge the world.
  • The observation argument ignores that God rules the world through his word - he creates, judges and sustains through this word. He will judge the world through this word too.
So what will these sceptics see? 3:10-13 show us that Christ's return will be unexpected, will bring destruction (not disappearing, but be laid bare before God), will bring judgement and will bring renewal (a new heavens and a new Earth, which will be the home of righteousness.)

How should we, as Christians, live in light of this?
  • We should long for the day (3:12-14). What we desire rules us. Spend time in the word of God and long for the day.
  • We should live for the day (3:14). We should be spotless, blameless and at peace. But don't just abstain, do things too - serve, love and care. This is how the early church grew (along with being filled with the spirit and preaching the word of God to the lost).
  • We should speed the day. The gospel needs to be preached to the ends of the Earth before Christ returns. Can we make that day come sooner by taking the gospel out? What a motivation to take the gospel truth to the far reaches of the world.
What an awesome book!

Thursday, 21 February 2008

Forum 2008



UCCF Forum promo video is now online. Forum 2008 is going to be awesome - John Piper and Graham Daniels speaking, loads of awesome seminars and camping! Plus I'm in the video 3 times :)

Wednesday, 20 February 2008

First Contact Evangelism

Just finished Action Group with University of Manchester CU. Before heading out we looked at God's part and our part in evangelism. We learnt that our part is essentially just to get out there and tell people the gospel (Matthew 28:16-20 and Romans 10:11-17) and that it's God's job to save people (Acts 4:10-12 and Revelation 7:9-10) - what a well timed reminder for us just before we head out to the daunting task of telling complete strangers the gospel!

Seven of us headed out in pairs and a single. We had some pretty cool conversations with many different types of people. I spoke to Muslims for a half hour showing them how that as God is both a perfect judge and loves us perfectly, the only way he can reconcile these two characteristics and forgive people of their sins is through Jesus taking the punishment for our sins on the cross. How exciting to be able to tell this to Muslims on campus!

Several other great conversations were had and we all became more confident in sharing the gospel with students.