Living and speaking for Jesus

Author: Matthew (Page 4 of 11)

The danger of morals

Steve Collier and I have never met, but each blog entry he writes makes me hope we will soon! In this entry (click on the title to get to the original) he responds to David Cameron’s view of the Bible:

lawHave you ever felt burdened by something? I know I certainly have! And for many of us, maybe we have had times in our lives as followers of Jesus that we’ve felt burdened. If so, I wonder what those burdens were? I have an inkling that for many of us, those burdens may be to do with that word that Cameron uses: morals. Are we doing the right thing? Are we acting in the right way?

If we take Cameron’s understanding of the Bible, then what we have is a book of morals. And if we adopt his understanding of faith, then what we are left with is the slavish burden of attempting to live up to those moral standards. You see, by reducing the Bible to a book of morals, what we really do is impose the law upon ourselves – that very thing that Jesus died to set us free from.

Glad to see you’re blogging again Steve!

Colette’s story

Emma Scrivener has the wonderful testimony of a friend of mine on her blog today. Click the title above for more, but here’s an excerpt:

When I was 14 I became very unwell with anorexia.  I didn’t know Jesus’ love so I focused my energy into school and exams interspersed with stays in hospital, and managed to get good A levels and escape to Bristol for university.  However at the end of my first year I had to go into hospital again for another few months.  Ellie and Cathy had taken me to church a few times, but I thought like all uni friendships that this wouldn’t last, and that they would realise that I am not worth bothering with.  I thought that they would see me as a complete failure for not being well.  But, praise God, this wasn’t the case.

I was thrilled to be at her baptism earlier, and so very thankful for God’s grace in her life (and through her to others). He is very good.

Bread not eaten

Lovely, lovely words from Nim Clemo:

So often I act day to day like I can find my own bread to eat – I start believing that my own shaky acts of righteousness and good works are enough to fill me.

And yet the bread that breadJesus offers is eternal nourishment for our endless filling and salvation. It’s essential eating for sinful people who will die without its sustenance! We need to eat up this grace gift like the starving sinners that we are, not tell him that ‘we’re fine thanks’.

Click the title above to read more.

Let us pray

I’ve not written much lately. Work’s been busy, crowding out quite a lot of things. Time to reflect and think about what to write has been an early casualty.

It’s not just on the blog that I’ve been running out of words. I remember a time when talk of Jesus came naturally to my lips. He was a part of every day conversations, both with Christians and others.

What happened?

Well, here’s a big thing that struck me recently. I’ve taken my ability to talk about Jesus for granted, and so I’ve stopped praying about it. “God knows that I want my friends to become Christians… so there’s no need to talk to him about it.” Then I’m surprised when opportunities don’t present themselves, or they do and I’ve no idea what to say.

Here’s Paul to the Colossians:

And pray for us, too, that God may open a door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ, for which I am in chains. Pray that I may proclaim it clearly, as I should. (Colossians 4:3-4)

Paul asks the Colossians to pray that he’d have opportunities to speak of Jesus, and that when they come he’d speak the gospel clearly. The greatest evangelist of the early church, if not all time, and he prays for the right words to say and the opportunities to say them! If Paul realises he needs prayer in order to speak of Jesus, then of course I do too.

This coming week the CU at my old university has a load of events planned to help students reach out to students with the good news of Jesus. Just round the corner there are all sorts of outreach opportunities for churches over the Christmas period. Great opportunities – but none of them, none of them, will get anywhere without prayer.

And that is good news. Why? Well, in prayer we recognise our inability to change people’s hearts, including our own. We come to God needy and dependent, as children to our Father – and, gloriously, we find that he is powerful and he listens! Speaking of Jesus is hard. By ourselves, we wouldn’t be up to it. But we’re not by ourselves. God is with us and goes before us.

So let’s ask for his help. Let us pray.

Be of good comfort

Just over a year ago I wrote an article on the Oxford Martyrs. I thought it appropriate to share today. (Hint: click the title above to access the full, original entry).

The Protestant martyrs died defending the truth that nothing we do can make us acceptable to God. Whether we’ve had a fantastic day of walking in Christian freedom, or a shocking day feeling enslaved to sin, we would still be as far away from God as ever, if he had not come close to us. Jesus, King of the universe, stepped down, down even to death, in order to bring us up with him to his Father. He takes our sin, and gives us his perfect obedience. In him, we are as loved by the Father as he has been since eternity past.

Happy Reformation Day.

Silencing Old Man Shame

A lovely little parable about how shame stops us approaching God – and how foolish that is. Here’s an excerpt:

Too often, the person who has the King’s own seal on their head…one of those whose entrance into the Palace has been enabled by the King’s own blood…to often they listen to the Old Man of the Slums, and they turn around and leave…feeling that the King would be disappointed with them should they try to enter.

That little, weak, polluted old man is shame…and for the Christian, he has no right to keep us from the presence of God.

Go read the rest.

Taste and see

I will extol the Lord at all times;
his praise will always be on my lips.
I will glory in the Lord;
let the afflicted hear and rejoice.
Glorify the Lord with me:
let us exalt his name together. (Psalm 34:1-3)

The psalmist calls us to join him in praising the Lord, and so often we can respond with a cynical laugh or a world-weary sigh.  “Really? After the week I’ve just had?” Yet he calls us to praise him nevertheless, saying that even the afflicted have reasons to rejoice. Why?

I sought the Lord, and he answered me;
he delivered me from all my fears.
Those who look to him are radiant;
their faces are never covered with shame. (v4-5)

Shame makes us hide away, afraid of being seen for what we are. Our sins are a dark stain we can’t remove. But those who look to him, by contrast, are radiant and shining.

This poor man called, and the Lord heard him;
he saved him out of all his troubles.
The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear him,
and he delivers them. (v6-7)

This is how the afflicted, the sinful, the weighed down can rejoice: the Lord hears them and saves them. The Sent One of the Lord delivers his people, saying to those that would condemn them, “No more! No further! My people are safe in my embrace.”

Taste and see that the Lord is good;
blessed is the one who takes refuge in him.
Fear the Lord, you his holy people,
for those who fear him lack nothing.
The lions may grow weak and hungry,
but those who seek the Lord lack no good thing.(v8-10)

You frail and weary people, taste and see! Knowing the Lord brings hope to the darkest times. Christ the Rock is your refuge, even from the righteous wrath of God. Ultimately, he gives you himself. And so those who seek the Lord lack no good thing—because they have him.

Settling in

You’ve got to the end of freshers’ week – but now what? Here’s some advice for Christian students I’ve gleaned from various people over the years (with particular thanks to Dave Bish and Jim Walford).

Join a church

No one can make it alone as a Christian, and living as a student is no exception. You’ll probably be challenged about what you believe, whether in lectures or down the pub. There will be pressure to conform to a sinful culture; many Christians flirt with temptation rather than fleeing, and regret it later. You need people to support you and challenge you because they love and care for you. As a Christian you’re already part of God’s worldwide church, so make it a priority to join a local church community. Church will help you grow as a Christian, so find somewhere where as God’s Word is taught people grow to love Jesus more, love each other more and love the lost more.

Join the CU

Christian Unions are mission teams made up of students from different local churches, united around the gospel in order to better reach students with the good news of Jesus. In short, they exist to make Christ known on campus. Join your CU to get involved in student mission; to be better equipped to reach your friends with the gospel; and to be encouraged as you work as a team to bring others to know Jesus. Find out more on the UCCF website.

Join other societies/do other things!

God’s made a good world, with so many great things in it. Don’t do what I did in my first year and do so many Christian things you don’t have time to play football/sing in a choir/join the wine circle/get involved in student politics/act in a play/go to the pub with coursemates. Not only is it wrong to think such things are “less spiritual” (all of life is for God’s glory!), if you throw yourself into loads of Christian meetings to the exclusion of all else, you’ll find opportunities for mission few and far between. This is my biggest regret about my first year at university. Do something to get outside of the Christian bubble, even if it’s simply spending time with your flatmates!

Work hard, rest well

It may not feel like it sometimes, but you’re at university to study for a degree. This is a good thing to do! Your attitude to your work is a great witness to others, but more importantly God asks us to work as if working for him. My experience is that you actually enjoy your work more the more effort you put in; this is possibly my second biggest regret of my first year, as I didn’t get much out of it academically.

You also need rest, which may seem impossible during freshers’ week, but getting into good habits early on really does help. The temptation is to stay up late like everyone else, because you feel like you’ll miss out on making friendships, especially early on. God knows what you need though, and one of those things is sleep; you will not lose all your friends if you go to bed before them! (You may well find they’re waiting for someone else to suggest going to bed…) Naps are also useful, if you have been up late; caffeine less so.

Learn to love

Your flatmates might “borrow” your food, or not do the washing up, or wake you up after a late night out. Your lecturers might not be very good, or overly harsh, and can sometimes be ridiculed or hated by others. You might meet people in the CU with whom you disagree: on theology, on style of meeting, on whether Jesus would have joined the Conservative or Labour Party, on all sorts of things you hold dear. God hasn’t put you with these people and in these situations to annoy you: he’s given you an opportunity to learn to love people. This is important with non-Christians, but possibly even more so with Christians. If members of the CU don’t love each other, that’s not a good witness. If they do love each other, learning to put aside secondary issues because they agree on the core truths of the gospel, it’s a far better witness. Francis Schaeffer said:

Love – and the unity it attests to – is the mark Christ gave Christians to wear before the world. Only with this mark may the world know that Christians are Christians and that Jesus was sent by the Father. (Francis Shaeffer, in Graham Beynon, God’s New Community (IVP), p92.)

Remember grace

You may have great intentions, but as a sinful human being you’re going to mess up. Don’t forget the gospel. Jesus died for you, and his perfect righteousness is enough to cover even the most spectacular failings. I was far from perfect at university, and needed daily reminders of God’s grace to me. (Also related: joining a church!) Living in close proximity with others, it’s reasonably sure they’ll get to see your sins and struggles – so take the opportunity to tell them of Jesus, who accepts sinners like you and them.

Summary

University is a great opportunity for so many things, but above all to grow to know and love Jesus more, and so love other people more, through living and speaking for him in your academic work, your time with friends, your CU involvement and in your church family. My prayer is that you’ll do just that!

Books for freshers

Cat Caird recommends some books:

A new term at University is about to begin with freshers coming to University for the first time! It is an exciting time of change, new experiences and discovering and sharing the Christian faith! I have put together a list of books that will help Christians in their first term at University.

I’ve not read the others (though I have no doubt they’re good), but A Meal with Jesus and Out of the Saltshaker are both great shouts.

Making the Most of Freshers’ Week

I was all prepared to write a post on “Making the most of freshers’ week”, when I came across this on the UCCF website:

With a new place to explore and plenty of new people to meet, Freshers’ Week is really exciting, but as a Christian it’s even better. University is an amazing time to make great friendships and share Jesus with people who have maybe never even thought of Him, and since Freshers’ Week is where it all begins make sure you make the most of it!

If you’re a fresher, it’s definitely worth a read; if not, why not show it to any freshers you meet?

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