Sorry I’ve been quiet so long, for a while I’ve had excuses for not writing a post but recently it’s just a lack of concentration and determination to sit down and do it, but here goes.
I’m a Christian and this year I started university. All year I’ve been discovering that doing this isn’t as straightforward as just turning up and going with the flow. So I am humbly going to put some pointers and hints down for all of you who are in the position I was a year ago. Don’t take everything I say to the letter, it’s based on my experience and obviously different universities will also have slightly different circumstances. If you’re not in the UK you may find this useful but just be aware that I am and things may work differently where you are. Oh and please ask me questions!
So I’m splitting this into a few posts and the first couple are about before you even get to uni, what to think about and what to do.
Right, so you’ve just finished your A-Level exams and you’re starting to enjoy your summer, pretending you’re not just waiting for your results. Now I know that you may be panicking about your results and I’m not going to tell you that you’ve done fine because honestly, I don’t know! But I will say that there’s no point letting them overshadow your summer and preparing for university. Although if you’ve handed in your BTEC coursework or you’re just finishing up your year out or… [insert activity here] then I guess you’re not worrying which is lovely for you!
There’s something you need to think about and consider before we go any further. And it’s actually pretty crucial.
Are you serious about living your life for Jesus?
You won’t have the safety net of your parents, your familiar church family, your youth group and your youth pastor/minister any more. I’m not saying these people will be deserting you or leaving you on your own but you won’t see them on a daily/weekly basis and it’s extremely easy to not keep in touch. I sincerely hope all of you reading this can say “yes” to that question above but you need to take the time to know that is your answer. Because when you get to university you need to be firm and sure of who you are and how you’re going to live. I don’t mean you need to have every detail sorted out but you need to know that you’re not going to live as the world does. We are called to be in the world, but not of it. We are to be salt and light that points to Christ. And it takes effort. And to put in effort you need to have motivation. And if motivation for living out your faith has come from people around until now you need to be ready for when they’re not any more.
If this applies to you, I’m not saying this to break you down but actually to build you up. When your relationship with God depends on Him rather than other people it is so much richer and frankly, amazing, than when you’re just being carried along. So please, take a look at you walk with God and see where it’s at right now. Make the conscious decision to follow Him regardless who else is in your life.
But hey, I’m not saying you’ve got to do this with no “ground support” at all, just the people providing it will change completely. In my next post I’ll tell you about who these people will be and how to start linking up with them now.
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.
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.