Sorry I’ve been behind with posts recently revision and exams have got in the way but here’s what I’ve found to be an amazing encouragement to me about God’s salvation for us. I think its a powerful illustration of what our relationship with God was, how it got damaged and how he took the step to save us from ourselves and our sin. I know its got around before but I’ve watched it many times and touches me every time. Feel free to share and comment/ask questions!
My last exam is on Thursday so should have a post out by this weekend. God Bless and enjoy the snow if you’re in the UK!
“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders.And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”
The God that created the universe, fashioned the stars.
He was willing to become a small, defenceless, vulnerable, weak and probably crying, baby.
He wasn’t born a magnificent palace as he deserved, but amongst the animals in a shed.
The first people to see him were shepherds – not exactly a King’s welcome.
He was to grow up and be perfect.
In his ministry he made lame, walk; the blind, see; the dead, come to life.
He came alongside the poor, the sick, the troubled, the rejected and the lowest of society.
He did not condemn them but showed them love.
Then these people, fuelled by the religious leaders of the time, demanded his perfect, sinless life be ended.
He was beaten, mocked and humiliated.
He given a crown. Of thorns.
He was nailed to a cross.
He suffered, slowly dying through suffocation.
And then this man, the Son of Man, the Messiah, the Son of God, the Christ, the Promised One, the Prince of Peace; breathed his last.
He was killed.
And in that moment the father in heaven could not look at him.
Because he took all our sin, what we have done, what we will do, upon himself.
And he died with it.
A perfect sacrifice.
A sacrifice so that we can be clean and sinless before God.
Because he loves us so unconditionally, more than we can even comprehend.
He could not bear to leave us in darkness to rot and die in our sin.
So he made a way.
That way started on Christmas Day, with a defenceless, vulnerable and weak, little baby.
I don’t know about you but when I think about this I just get excited. I want to laugh, I want to cry, I want to shout from the rooftops how amazing this is. But most of all, I can’t do anything else but love God back. So I devote my life to serving him.
“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.”
This Christmas, if you’re a Christian, please don’t forget what you are celebrating; it’s just so incredible that letting everything getting on top of Christ is not worth it.
If you’re not a Christian, think on how incredible this news is! God is motivated by love and wants to meet with you and show it to you. He’s done all the work, he just wants to enter a relationship with you. Yes, huge powerful God wants to be in a relationship with you.
Merry Christmas to all and God bless you.
So last week I posted a reaction to Bristol CU’s decision over women speakers (they were slightly liberalising their previous policy of not allowing them at all to certain, limited setting). I came out in full defence of their decision, despite the fact I’m an egalitarian. Their “u-turn” to allow women speakers in all CU settings did actually make me happier (assuming they didn’t take it because of the pressure they were under). But I want to concede that I probably didn’t have the full insight into the situation and I was challenged by comments and other blogs I read. So I asked around a bit in my CU and found that although there is a large complementarian presence there, a lot of them wouldn’t have a problem with women speakers at CU because their beliefs mainly apply to leadership rather than preaching, and generally only in a church setting. So I was sort of wrong. I still hold to the principle of my argument though; I still think it is a valid decision for a CU to take if they feel that is the best way to retain unity. But I’m not perfect, by any stretch.
Today, I want to confess something I really struggle with, and I’m sure I’m not the only one.
Okay first to say what I’m referring to and why it’s a problem. I take pride in my academic work. I put the effort in and I get good marks, great! This is fine, I think, as long as I don’t start boasting to others about it and put myself above other people because of it. But I know that this isn’t of eternal importance. When I serve God I know it is much more important than any of my personal achievements. But this service isn’t what gives me salvation. It’s when I think about the fact that there’s a God so huge and powerful who created the universe and everything in it. And that he cared about and loved me so much that he was willing to come to this earth as one of us and suffer and die in my place so that I could have a relationship and eternal life with him. I can’t do nothing. I have to live my life serving him.
All good so far, right?
Well, yes. Except in my head I have a habit listing all the things I do at church, at CU and other situations where I serve. I start hoping that this person or group of people noticed that I did this or start imagining conversations where people are saying how great I am because what I do. I wonder if I have done enough, for example, for the CU committee to think I’m suitable to be on committee next year. Will people be saying I’m a great example to others? Am I the most enthusiastic fresher? All these things swirl around my head. And I hate it. If I catch myself I have to think of something else to make it go away.
I hate it because it makes me worry about my motives. I know that I shouldn’t serve God in order to impress other people, to gain leadership positions or be famous in Christian circles. I believe (although sometimes I am really not sure) that this isn’t why I do it and it’s my sinful nature trying to make me proud and I’m weak to it.
Most people probably don’t know about this. I generally manage to keep it under wraps. There’s the occasional time I slip and say how my week is so busy because I’m doing so much at church and CU, then realising what I’ve done and try to laugh it off as some sort of joke. Then I leave worried that person thinks I have got my motives messed up, and think less of me, then I get all the thoughts going round my head again.
We all have our failings, this is one of many of mine.
There isn’t much of a conclusion I can give here but writing this down has helped, I know that I should continue serving God and rejecting sin but that will only work with God’s help. I hope that anyone who struggles with similar problems can now know that they’re not on their own. We all have our struggles with sin, whatever it is, admit to yourself it is an issue and ask God to work within you and help you fight it.
Thanks for reading 🙂
You may have heard me mention it before but something that matters to me a lot is unity in the Church. In 1 Corinthians Paul says:
“I appeal to you, brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment.”
I think that it would be amazing if the church could be one body and there were no divisions at all. I believe, however, that the way the church has developed over time where I think it has gone in the wrong direction and had movements to bring it back and the smaller, less vital splits have meant that’s not possible. Fortunately I don’t think that’s what Paul was really thinking of either. What we need is churches looking for ways to understand each other, how their views are formed from the same book (i.e. the Bible) and that when someone is seeking to follow Christ in action, deed and word there should be unity with them. Some Christians I talk to find it strange that I defend the views of other Christians I (and usually they) don’t agree with. I then do my best to explain why that view is held with a kind of “so you can see where they’re coming from” conclusion. I think that it is vitally important that we understand the sources of each other’s convictions to enable us to see that they are very rarely incompatible with being a Jesus-loving Christian who believes the core values of our faith.
Last week I was talking to a couple of my fellow CU freshers and I don’t remember how it came up but one of them said that one of her flatmates had mentioned that she was a Catholic, something that she had no evidence of up until then. My friend didn’t know how to react as she knows that being christened doesn’t make you a Christian, and certainly just growing up in Catholic (or for that matter any Christian) family doesn’t either. Her reaction to hearing this wanted to be to challenge her and tell her she isn’t a Christian. I remember her saying that hearing someone saying that they’re a Christian through these means makes her angry. I talked about my Catholic family and how I feel they have been model Christians to me in my life even if I don’t agree with quite a few of their views. I suggest to anyone who feels similarly to her not to respond with irritation but to lovingly ask how their relationship with God is, what church they go to or what their faith means to them. Find out what they believe; understand why. At this point you can present your views and explain why you hold them. Do all of this lovingly and be interested! It’s okay to challenge their views in this way as long as you can back up your own, don’t expect to change their ideas and be ready for yours to be challenged. This doesn’t only apply Catholics but any other Christians who have differing views from you. How can we expect to interact with and challenge (and be challenged by) non-Christians’ views and values when we can’t do it with each other?
Once we can learn to understand and love each other despite our differences we can look towards unity. Like I said before I don’t mean a single church but I do mean Christians working across the divides to make Christ and his love known in this world. Since coming to university I have found that the Christian Union is incredible example to the church in this respect. I hope that other CUs are like mine and I’m lead to believe that many are but I’ve only got mine to draw examples from. There’s 200 of us from many different denominations. We go to different churches. We hold different views on the role of women, predestination, the best way to worship, how the Spirit moves, how communion should be taken and many, many more. And yet we are a united student mission team on campus.
We recently ran an events week where everyday we put on events which all included a talk, mostly on Christian apologetics. Our intention is to allow as many people on campus as possible to hear about Jesus. If we bring along our friends, we can follow-up with them ourselves and take them to our church. Some responded independently and were assigned people to follow-up with. We weren’t told which church to take them to – no one will say that we’re leading them the wrong way because new Christians should be in this denomination or the other. Sometimes we will informally discuss the differences we have but it is always loving and with interest and not a way to pick holes in each others’ ideas. We are centred around the cross and the redemption it has given us. Centred around the belief that God so loved us He was willing to die so that we could enjoy life with Him. We think that that fact is so amazing it has to be told to as many as people as possible and our differences come second.
UCCF is an organisation which helps the CUs in the UK do this. A few ideas for this blog came from Dave Bish, the UCCF regional team leader for the South West, in his blog, although I had intentions to write this before I had read that. He talks about how CUs need to keep working in this way and how to do this. I’ve said a lot of this already so I won’t repeat myself, take a look at his blog for another angle. He draws attention to how the biggest point of contention in a CU is how the weekly meeting is run. This is hard because it does actually resemble a stripped down church service (it is not intended to be instead of a church service; a lot of emphasis is put on being part of a church as well as CU), which means there are a few points which could cause problems. At our CU I think we avoid at least some of these problems by not doing some things. There’s no opportunity for prophecy or for the Spirit to work and we don’t take communion. These things are left up to churches to “provide” if you like.
Something that I know is not consistent among CUs is that we don’t have women come in to do talks. Every week a guest speaker gives a talk which is either equipping us for evangelism or strengthening us. Every week a man gives this talk. When I first realised this was a rule (rather than coincidence with the speakers I had seen so far) there was a short time I was really disappointed. I am very supportive of women becoming preachers and being leaders in the church and that comes from a biblically based belief. Last week I talked about this in relation to the women bishops vote. I also talk about how I’ve come to recognise that other Christians completely value women’s contribution to the church and believe it is vital but their role is different from men and doesn’t include preaching. This view is also biblically based and isn’t sexist or misogynistic (check out this article on Threads). So if we accept that some Christians hold a valid view opposing women preachers, in a group of united Christians, not allowing women to preach makes sense. These people will feel that their view is respected and those in favour of them can’t actually have a problem seeing as their view isn’t that women have to preach. Of course the CU mustn’t actually make this policy a part of their stated beliefs; they must be broad and really only define core beliefs and values. (For all UCCF-affiliated CUs this is their Doctrinal Basis.)
This is one example of a possible problem and how it was avoided; out of love and respect for each other. Funnily enough churches working together generally wouldn’t come into nearly as many problems as they don’t need a weekly meeting where problems could arise, and yet we can still be terrible at interacting. There are great examples of times we do, however. Street pastors, foodbanks, Hope, inter-denominational conferences (Soul Survivor, Spring Harvest, etc), Alpha and many more. And yet we still like to argue and let our differences get in the way of personal relationships.
So if you’re a Christian and often find yourself wanting to argue with one of your brother or sisters in Christ, change it into a loving conversation and discuss. Challenge their ideas and allow them to challenge yours; if nothing else it’s good practice for when talking to non-Christians!
As usual this is much longer than originally intended – sorry about that! Please don’t let it stop you challenging me, asking questions and giving me your comments!
Yes, I am entering the discussion on women bishops, and I bet this will be far from the first blog you will read about it but I hope that you get something new out of it.
For a long time I haven’t been all that interested in the way the Church of England governs and works. Back home, my father is a Catholic and I went with my mother to a Baptist church so I guess I thought it didn’t affect me. I heard the Archbishop of Canterbury get quoted every so often and understood there was a certain importance the C of E had in this country as the national church. But I guess I thought that essentially they were a more liberal and slightly more in touch version of the Catholic church (except they didn’t believe in transubstantiation). I do want to point out this is mainly because of my lack of interest in finding anything out, rather than that being the image all C of E churches give.
This started to change when I went to my college Christian Union friend’s baptism at her (C of E) church and realised that it was a lot more engaging and relaxed in structure than I expected. I also found out that that church did a “café church” service about once a month and went along and really enjoyed it. The perception was broken. I also understood that Holy Trinity Brompton (the birthplace of the Alpha Course and various other initiatives) was an Anglican church and was really on the edge of engaging with people and making the gospel relevant to them. I began realising that quite a few churches that I’d heard of as being centres of Christian youth and sometimes famously charismatic churches were in fact Anglican. When I was at New Wine this year I discovered that was a C of E movement and that Soul Survivor was born out of that. I think that was when my perceptions were completely smashed. Well, almost. The image I had of the Anglican church does exist, it’s just on the other end of the spectrum from churches like HTB and actually I was happy to know that i wasn’t completely wrong. You see, I think the Church of England’s best unique aspect is that it ranges from traditional and conservative to modern, liberal and charismatic. If you are at church to meet with God and you engage with Him through it, the style really doesn’t matter so I appreciate this variety and love it. Since coming to university I have started attending a New Wine Anglican church because it was where it felt God was leading me and because it felt like the congregation was all there to meet with Him. That’s a church I want to be at.
Anyway the point I’m getting at that’s relevant is that a church with so much variety, and yet a rigid top-down leadership system, has a huge problem when it wants to agree on changing something. This is different from, for example, the Baptist church (at least how it is in the UK) where each church pretty much governs itself while being associated with the Baptist Union and its doctrine. So when you have to decide whether to allow women bishops I can see where the difficulty is in getting everyone united.
Although I feel it should have no bearing on the issue (having been at a C of E church for less than two months) I will explain my position. I believe that women should be allowed to preach in church and serve in leadership. I believe that is the correct interpretation of what is in the Bible (or rather I agree with much cleverer and wiser people who hold to that interpretation). I also believe that although there can only be one true interpretation there is more than one valid one that could be true. Let me be clear, this can’t be anything that you can twist scripture into, but I won’t arrogantly say that the interpretation that I believe fits best with what I know about God and the Bible is definitely true. Other well-reasoned arguments from scripture could also be correct. I think that this is one of the matters that this issue applies to.
I am passionate about Christian unity. I don’t mean belief in the exact same details of doctrine or a single church. I mean different Christians working together to spread the good news of Jesus Christ and showing His love to as many people as possible. Each of these groups may have different valid views on various issues and many parts of doctrine but are united in their love for Jesus. This is why one of the Church of England’s greatest strengths (a single church with great variety) becomes a weakness. Because of their wide spectrum, views will differ and changing the “official” goalposts can alienate some groups; both ways. Clearly a larger group wanted this change to go through and the fact that it failed by only 6 votes in the House of Laity (unordained members of the church) highlights this.
I’ll be honest, I was hoping it was going to be a yes. Part of this is that after allowing women priests quite a while ago, it makes very little sense not to allow women bishops; it’s inconsistent. If you believe women cannot preach or hold positions of leadership in church then either can certainly not be allowed. Meanwhile if you believe that they can it doesn’t make sense to only allow one level of leadership to women. I don’t see an interpretation that can allow this “in between” position. I also think that the C of E needs to continue to show it is moving with the times – not copying the world view, but re-examining issues without older cultural ideas clouding judgement as they may have done in the past.
But the overriding message I have heard from the traditional camp that support the no verdict is not “we’re right and you’re wrong and we don’t want it to change”, rather that they weren’t happy with the form the measure was in because they didn’t want to alienate part of the church. They were (and still are) looking to come to a compromise where women bishops will be allowed, but those churchgoers with whom this didn’t fit with their biblically-based ideas, would have provision. It sounds complicated but they are looking to hold the fantastic unity of the church together, not damage it or the image of the church to the outside world. I realise this isn’t the view of everyone on this side of the fence but it is certainly what has actually been coming through. I think this motivation is most certainly noble and think that those who were looking for a yes may not fully understand this. Despite this I do share in their disappointment when the vote was so close.
For a simpler outlook I would point you to fellow student Joel’s blog who has emphasised the need for not squabbling over each other’s doctrine, especially when those not part of the C of E have been expressing their opinions on the matter and getting into arguments, a sentiment I second very strongly!
I feel like I should come to a conclusion at this point but I honestly haven’t personally come to one so I will just say that I hope I’ve raised some different ideas in your mind over this issue, please post your comments about it below!
EDIT: Check out Krish Kandiah’s blog for explanation of the different beliefs on women in leadership and how we can respect those with views different from our own.
You’re a Christian and you’re in a new place, whether that be because you moved because of work, you’ve started university or simply moved far enough across town its impractical to go to your old church. How do you decide where to go?
Okay so when I say those others don’t matter, I don’t mean you need to go to the first church that loves Jesus and stay there without taking any personal preference into account, especially if the specific doctrine is important to you. But what I mean is all those questions really are just personal preference and I think it’s really easy to get caught up in it. You can so easily slip into thinking how a church isn’t like your old church in this way or the other. And of course if this is doctrinal or a serious style clash then it probably isn’t the church for you. What I ask is; please don’t go around trying to find a copy of your old church just because it’s safe, and then go on to complain (however silently or inwardly) about how it isn’t quite there.
Long before I arrived in my university city I decided I needed to find church that I could serve God in. After my experience at Soul Survivor (details second half of this post), I also decided that if I could find a church that was dedicated to reaching out to the community it would be a lot easier for me to serve God in the way he had called me to. I had made no decisions about the style or denomination of church. I come from a Baptist church back home but have never considered myself a Baptist; only a Christian and, if pressed, one with mainly Baptist leanings in terms of doctrine. I made no decisions about the size or the amount of students.
I’ll be honest that when I got here and had to make decisions about where to try I took a couple of those decisions simply to cut the options a little. I realised a church with an especially large student presence with a lot of specific provision for them would probably lead to little to no opportunity to get involved in the church itself or mission so they got “crossed off”.
Just to add in a note here from hindsight: sorry about all the numbers from here on in but it’s the easiest way to identify different churches without telling you their names.
The CU at my university (and many others) do a “Church Search” for the first four weeks of term where student reps from each church talk about their church and then freshers follow who they want. I decided that after those four weeks I wanted to have finished trying out churches so that’s… four churches right? Well, yes, any sane person would just do four, but I was especially keen to try out lots of different churches so I did three out of four evenings too so have visited seven different churches in this fine city. They ranged from those of a congregation of less than 100 to over 300, traditional and conservative to contemporary, artsy and charismatic, a large student presence to a small one. After two weeks I had visited three and felt that even though one did suit me well it wasn’t the place for me. I thought I was being too picky and just not being happy with any of them because I was being awkward. I prayed and considered and visited two more the following sunday #4 and #5. #4 was a lovely little Baptist church in the centre of the city that reminded me of my home church in terms of style and direction. I liked it and was top so far.
But #5 changed everything. #5 is a New Wine C of E church on the other side of the city, where there are no current students. I was invited by email via Fusion (www.fusion.org.uk), inviting me to a steak dinner and evening service. Throwing a few emails back and forth it sounded like a church I could really get involved in and they are really short of sound technicians (the best way I can serve in the church after 4/5 years experience at my home church), so I went along. The steak dinner was extremely tasty and the people I met were lovely. At the service there was a 7 piece youth band who really won my over with a great rendition of Rend Collective’s You are my vision and a couple of other Soul Survivor favourites which actually sounded right! (The recreation of a festival-style worship song is usually very difficult in a normal church.) And during the service I just felt the people were there to encounter God and He was who their hearts were seeking. It struck me as a place where faith grows and is nurtured.
I went back home not sure what to think. This church is on the other side of the city and has no students; really God? Is it where you want me to be?
I had plans for the following week (now last week) as I had connections with someone at a church in Bath so felt I had to visit it; it also had a large student presence so I felt it was worth a look (#6). I also had an idea for the evening service; a student church plant of another New Wine church (#7). #6 was too traditional and not lively enough for me. I think that sentence is pretty hypocritical of me but actually I didn’t feel like it was where I was meant to be and maybe I just put it down to the “preferences” mentioned. #7 was brilliant, extremely contemporary and quite charismatic. It reminded me very much of Soul Survivor, which generally is a good thing; however I feel like for that to be a weekly occurrence it would be too overwhelming for me. Again perhaps it was a “this isn’t where I want you” nudge which I gave reason to. I spoke to one of the CU leaders who was already at #7 as he arranged a ride for me. I told him I really liked #5 and he agreed it was a great church and it’s a pity there aren’t any students there. He had a friend who is actually doing an internship at #5 and would happen to be at #7 that night. After the service I was introduced to this guy and we talked for 10/15 minutes about #5 and why I liked it, asked him some questions and only got more and more sure that it was where I was meant to be.
Over this week I’ve prayed and thought it through and decided that it where I want to go. I’m going back this morning to be sure that the service I went to wasn’t a weird fluke that never happens usually and if it still feels right it’s probably where I’ll stick.
I really want to emphasise that decision came about from praying and listening to where God wanted me. I made excuses for not wanting to be at other churches but they were just excuses to cover God telling me it wasn’t where I was meant to be.
I’m sorry about how long this post has become but I really hope it will help you if you’re looking for a new church in a new place.
I guess it can all be summed up in: focus on where God wants you to be, not on where you feel most comfortable. If that’s the first church you see then great, but don’t be phased if it isn’t.
Anyone else gone through this? Any thoughts, comments, questions or disagreements?