Month: June 2009

Happy fathers’ day

I’m grateful to God for my dad for many reasons, but with today being fathers’ day I’ve been particularly struck by one reason for thankfulness. Without a loving father, the idea of a loving Father is meaningless. My dad helps me understand my Dad.

I love them both dearly, and I thank God for giving me a father on earth who demonstrates love towards me as a picture of God. So many people seem to be without a loving earthly father, and while of course they can still come to our heavenly Father I would imagine some must struggle with the idea of a father being loving.

I’m grateful my upbringing includes both my father and my Father, and both love me dearly.

My own peculiar way

As to dancing, my dear, I never dance, unless I am allowed to do it in my own peculiar way. There is no use trying to describe it: it has to be seen to be believed.

So wrote Lewis Carroll in December 1873. Judging by the CU ball, the sentiment is still true for many.

Arrived

Two things arrived in my life today.

The first will not interest most people. It’s wireless headphones ordered a bit over a week ago on eBay.

The second is my niece, my sister’s daughter. Abigail Grace Maude was born at about 3pm today. Praise God for a safe and joyous delivery.

Testified and exhorted

At the moment in my quiet times I’m looking through the book of Acts. Earlier this week I read Acts 2:40 which says

And with many other words he testified and exhorted them, saying, “Be saved from this perverse generation.”

It’s the day of Pentecost, the Holy Spirit has come upon the gathered believers in Jerusalem, and Peter has just preached a sermon to the Jews who were around him. Luke has recorded for us the sermon he preached, then at the end he writes this verse.

This is gospel preaching. This is what I aspire to. Not as a pulpit preacher, invaluable as they obviously are, but in my day-to-day life. I hope I will learn to follow the pattern Peter used when he was preaching to a group of people. He both testified to and exhorted the people.

If I’m not misunderstanding the passage, the words are not meant to say the same thing. They are complementary. Peter testified by his life, showing the people Christ by the way he lived. Every day Christ was visible in Peter. Peter also exhorted, urging and pleading with the people to be saved. It may not be as catchy as UCCF’s “living for Jesus, speaking for Jesus” tagline, but isn’t this exactly the same approach?

We cannot share the gospel by simply living it. We must preach it, whether while stood in a church or in a casual conversation, so people can understand their sin and their need to call out to Jesus for salvation. But neither can we share the gospel by preaching alone. The gospel’s power is to transform lives, and if our own lives are not transformed then what is the gospel we are presenting in our preaching? Neither will do alone; we must have both.

A week in retrospective – w/c 07/06/2009

Sunday 7/6/09

This was my 20th birthday, and God blessed me with a lovely day. Church was good; time spent with one of the church families was good (and their children were well behaved – it’s lovely to see them maturing each time I visit!); and when I got home I found Lee had left me a lovely birthday present! All in all a rather nice day methinks.

Monday 8/6/09

This week was RUCU’s prayer week. I was rather disappointed by the turnout to the engineering prayer slot – only Lee and I were there – but by Monday the timetable for the week hadn’t been sent out so people probably just forgot about it. We prayed about the Bridges hall event which was happening that afternoon for a while, then went over to Bridges for it. It was a success, but not a huge one. We had hoped to play games on the field outside Bridges and have a refreshments stand with goody bags (or Gody bags as one person named them) containing information about the small group and the CU, a testimony, a FREE gospel and of course some sweets. As it happened the day wasn’t as sunny as would have been ideal, but a few people came by personal invitation and had some interesting conversations. A number of passers by also took goody bags, and one stayed to chat about the gospel for a few minutes. There weren’t many people, and no-one committed to coming to anything in the future, or anything like that, but the gospel was heard by non-Christians so I pray and trust God will use the event.

Tuesday 9/6/09

It was on Tuesday I learnt a lesson which will undoubtedly stand me in good stead for future prayer weeks – spread the prayer out! I hadn’t deliberately tried to put all of it together, but it had worked out that from 9am until 4pm I was either meeting people on the RUCU committee or praying with various groups of people. In the evening I went to church for the Bible study and prayer meeting, and while it was wonderful to spend so large a proportion of the day in prayer it was very tiring, and more importantly it didn’t particularly help increase my desire to pray as I became less focused on God and more focused on meeting my commitments.

Wednesday 10/6/09

Once again there was a disgustingly early committee meeting at 9 in the morning. Afterwards I filled the time until Idol Chatter (at 2pm) with the morning ablutions I’d skipped after getting up late and my main session of Bible reading and prayer for the day. Idol Chatter was very helpful and practical. It was great to go through some well thought out examples of how to identify idols in the lives of others and sensitively deal with them, but probably more helpful to me personally was the recognition it brought of needing to get to know people more deeply by sharing my own heart with them. There was a joint prayer meeting with Speak, the Christian social action group, which took place after Idol Chatter. Only three people (including myself) who don’t normally go to Speak were there, which was very disappointing, but it was good to pray for issues I rarely remember in prayer. Once home I ate dinner and then mucked about with my housemates for a while. I can’t remember the exact events of the evening, but I do remember accidentally dropping Lee’s slipper out of my bedroom window onto the roof below. Yes, I know it sounds ludicrous that it could be an accident, but I assure you it was. We eventually got it back by fishing for it with a leaf rake, after a few failed attempts to get onto the roof which were abandoned when our ladder (found left behind by previous tenants, and with a rung and several screws missing) gave an unceremonious cracking sound while I was standing on it. Added to that it wasn’t really tall enough, and I don’t have enough upper body strength to pull myself up the sort of distance I would have had to. Once the slipper was restored to Lee and relative sanity restored to the house, I caught up on reading blog posts and helped Andy reply to an email he received off the back of a goody bag from Monday, which was a great encouragemet to us both

Thursday 11/6/09

10am was the start of Thursday for me, as it was when I met Josh to pray. Meeting Josh in any context is always a fantastic encouragement, and it’s a joy to pray with anyone, so combining the two was a real privilege. Once home I took advantage of the fine weather and went into the garden for a quiet time which particularly struck me. In the afternoon I met Gareth, also always encouraging, and he was kind enough to shelve any plans he had for the meeting (though to be fair he may not have had any) and give me the benefit of his organisational ability which I hardly need to say is considerably greater than mine. After my meeting with him I went and prayed with the Bridges small group and then had the RUCU main meeting in the evening. The meeting went well with a talk from Jim Hillier which was both entertaining and, I would opine, very helpful. Certainly his openness and honesty seemed to help a lot of people connect with what he was saying.

Friday 12/6/09

Friday was one of those days during which I work hard, do loads of useful jobs, but then when I take stock at the end of the day nothing seems to have changed. I made good use of my time, which is sufficiently unusual for me to be an encouragement in and of itself, but the things I did all seemed to be small tasks. Still, they needed doing, so it was with a sense of a day well spent that I went to a meal at Dan’s house in the evening. I’m not a great socialiser, but it was a good time with some good friends, and Dan’s policy of putting me at the front of the queue when food was served successfully ensured I finished eating around the same time as everyone else. The skittles milkshake he made me was interesting – it would appear that his blender is somewhat defunct, and is incapable of blending skittles, so I essentially had a faintly flavoured milkshake with a huge lump of wet skittles at the bottom of it. It tasted good!

Saturday 13/6/09

Sadly Saturday was not as productive as the Friday which preceded it. It got off to a bad start when my getting up was foiled 3 times by housemates getting in the shower before me. I must admit I was somewhat shocked that so many of us were wanting showers at around 11am, but we’d obviously all wanted lie-ins. Once we were all successfully washed, we had the pleasure of the company of the girls who we knew particulary well in the Bridges small group last year. We had a full english breakfast as brunch, and by the time washing up was done a considerable portion of the day was used up. I finished Prince of Persia, which probably won’t help me persuade Gareth that I’m not addicted to it, and got some reading done which was wonderful as I seem sadly unable to read books when I’m in Reading. I suspect the cause is more likely to be my computer, but it seems more of an issue in Reading than Leeds. I’m part way through many books, as I’m one of these people who buys books at a faster rate than I read them, but the two I’m actively reading at the moment are Don’t Waste Your Life (link to pdf – large file) by John Piper, which I bought a long time ago (possibly at the RUCU houseparty 2007?) but recently restarted after giving up only two chapters into the book, and A Call to Spiritual Reformation by Don Carson which I purchased after the glowing review it received from Dan Bailyes at main meeting this week. I trust the Lord will bless me from both of them.

Aim higher

Do we, as Christians, set our sights too low when asking for God’s blessings? I want to suggest that we do.

Sometime I pray that God will give me an opportunity to share the gospel with one person. It seems like a commendable aim, and it probably is, but wouldn’t it be better to ask for chances to share the gospel with more people? Maybe we pray God will protect us from a specific sin which is troubling us, but why do we not ask for perfection? Do we aim to be more patient, but forget to ask for gentleness and other virtues?

Am I being too harsh? Don’t we have to be realistic? I don’t think we do.

Okay, we do need to be realistic, but not if it means limiting God’s power. There’s no point asking God for something ludicrous we know He won’t give us, but if we want something for His glory why not ask for it? We may think that sharing the gospel with every person we talk to one day is unrealistic – I know I don’t have the faith to pray such a prayer – but does that mean I shouldn’t?

One of my favourite verses of the Bible is Psalm 81:10 which is above my bed at home. It tells me three things .

  1. I am the Lord your God“. The Lord, who is all-powerful, wise and good, is my God. He has chosen me as one of His children, and He loves to do good for me.
  2. Who brought you out of the land of Egypt“. The Israelites were brought out of slavery to their Egyptian masters by a series of miraculous events by God which culminated in the destruction of the entire Egyptian army. Similarly, I have been brought out of slavery to sin by a series of miracles culminating in my heart being transformed and the destruction of sin’s power over me.
  3. Open your mouth wide, and I will fill it“. God wants us to ask for big things. There is no command in the Bible that I know of instructing us to part our lips slightly to receive blessing. We are to open our mouths wide. We are to be expectant of something big! God will put as much in our mouths as possible, and the wider we open the more He will provide.

Of course this doesn’t give us licence to ask for the ridiculous, but if we are praying for something we know is glorifying to God then we should be thinking big not small. My personal evangelism is atrocious, and it’s rare I have the guts to share Jesus’ amazing love with my friends. I know I’m a massive failure in the evangelism department, but I also know my failures are forgotten by God and that His power is sufficient to embolden me to reverse them. So why should I pray for a single chance to talk about the precious faith I have been given by God? Why not five chances? Why not ten? Why not every person I talk to? The Bible is littered with commands to ask God for great things, so that is exactly what we should do.

A fortnight in retrospective – w/c 24/05/2009 & 31/05/2009

This post is extremely late, for which I apologise. However, I am sure the length will concern most of you more than the timing.

Sunday 24/5/09

The sermon (mp3) in the morning service was all about God’s promises to us. It focused on 2 Peter 1:4 but darted around many passages in the Bible looking at some of the many and varied promises that God gives to His people. During the day I was very grateful for concern shown by the man whose house I was staying at during the afternoon as he thought I was unusually quiet. It was lovely, as always, to know the church members do care for me and look out for my wellbeing, and it was nice to be able to open up about my worries about my 3rd year project. He was not unsympathetic. In the evening I took a wander to Carey to see Anna’s baptism, which was a joy to see. How exciting to see four people publicly professing that God has changed them and is continuing to change them! Once I was home I filled in the evening by watching Thunderball, which I’d not seen before. Having a housemate who owns all the James Bond films has its advantages.

Monday 25/5/09

Monday was a busy day, beginning with my quiet time and reading blogs before RUCUS at lunchtime. Afterwards I met Geraldine for one of our regular meetings before going to Isaac’s stag do. After watching some of the others playing mao at his house we went to Wagamama’s, which I’d never been to before. It was the first time in about 15 years that I’d used chopsticks, so although I was rather proficient in their use in reception I took even longer than usual to eat my meal! Most people didn’t think that was possible! We went on to watch the new Star Trek film which was well summed up by Adam when he asked me “Do you like sci-fi? Do you like action films? Well you’ll like this then”.

Tuesday 26/5/09

I got up a bit later than hoped, as I was back from the film quite late, but I managed to get going by about 10:30. It took a long time to go through my emails, so it was time for lunch by the time I finished. I watched panorama while eating my sandwiches, then planned the RUCU committee meeting and spent some time thinking through RUCU’s constitution. After dinner I was at a Bridges small group prayer meeting which was great, and we had a good planning time for our hall event too. Before going to bed I read a bit of John Piper (Don’t waste your life) which was nice, as whenever I’m in Reading I hardly do any reading. I blame the place name.

Wednesday 27/5/09

My day started at 9am with a committee meeting, after which I met Janice to plan the CU main meeting for that week. In the afternoon I went to a chaplaincy social barbecue held at Mark’s house. I’d never been there before, and it was a really nice house. The BBQ was pretty good too, though it should be given how many Mark seems to do every year! It was a good chance to chat to some of the Christians at the chaplaincy who I don’t know very well, though I fear I made quite poor use of it.  I did some revision in evening, but ended up being distracted by having a play fight with Lee (no idea how or why it started) then stayed up chatting to Andy until about 3:45. At this point it was getting light at the birds were singing outside, which appalled Andy when I told him to listen. Sadly it was not a unique experience for me.

Thursday 28/5/09

I got up far earlier than my body would have liked and used the morning to do last minute revision for my afternoon exam. I decided to revise in Cafe Mondial to avoid being distracted by my computer, and I had arranged to meet Cid there at lunchtime to ask him to consider being RUCU prayer secretary. By God’s providence I met him on the way and asked him then, which was more convenient for both of us. My exam was very good, and I had to answer two questions which were both easy. The topic included some things I had done enough before for it to be common sense, and the parts I hadn’t already known was quite straightforward. The CU main meeting was in the evening, and I, being a genius, forgot my printed plan of the evening. I was meant to meet Jonathan Wilmot, our speaker for the evening, in a card park I had given him directions to, and had to run to redo my printing and still meet him. The meeting was fine, being full but a little unorganised.

Friday 29/5/09

Friday had a slow start to day. I forget what mundanity filled the morning, but it was the RUCUS summer party at lunch which wasn’t very party-like, but was a good chance to chat as lots of people turned out. I think I spoke to all the people I know there, so I was quite pleased even though I found no opportunities to share the gospel, something I’m desperate to do with them! Afterwards I was at another social, this time for the RUCU committee. The idea was to get to know each other a bit better, and it was very enjoyable, but slightly spoiled by the fact two people couldn’t make it. In hindsight arraging it on a day when one of them had a placement was exceptionally poor planning on my part, but never mind. Gareth kindly ran a freshers seminar after it, which was helpful, but I have project work kicking off so I still don’t have a great deal of free time. To my shame a significant amount of the seminar hasn’t yet been used. I chose modules at the last minute, and looked a bit further into possible 3rd year projects. I was still a little undecided between computer science and cybernetics projects, so I wrote a shortlist which ended up consisting of 8 computer science projects and 4 cybernetics ones, so I chose computer science with a view to switching if it became problematic. Despite knowing I needed to get up in the morning the next day I watched My Weapon is a Dog and Reggie Perrin on iPlayer, which was stupid. Both programmes were disappointing anyway.

Saturday 30/5/09

The Pure day dominated, running as it did from 10am-4pm. It was much less awkward than I expected, and it was refreshing to talk so openly and honestly without the usual social restraints of casual conversation. I didn’t really know what to expect, but I found it to be less practical than I expected (I don’t know what could make it more practical though). Having said that, I think what I found most useful was the Biblical grounding for it all rather than the practical discussion bits anyway, so I was very happy with it. On the way home I bought ice cream, which was wonderful (I can’t remember the last time I had ice cream from an ice cream van before it) then I made dinner for the house. A few Bridgites came over in the evening to watch Stardust, which was better than it looked though not brilliant. Later I watched Have I got a bit more news for you before heading to bed.

Sunday 31/5/09

For the first time in far too long I was ready to go out to church on time. This was largely because Rachel was visiting, and I didn’t want to make her late for church. I didn’t need to worry though as she managed that herself. I must confess to a mixture of relief and amusement at the situation. The morning service contained what I considered to be a very good sermon, about the need to add to faith, not for salvation but for growth (mainly taken from 2 Peter 1:5-11). During the afternoon I spent time at Meg’s with Rachel, Andy and Daniel and had lots of good conversations. Discussing the morning sermon was particularly interesting. The evening sermon was about Jesus’ authority, and some parables about him. Once home I watched the MotoGP race from Mugello which was an excellent race, probably the best so far this season.

Monday 1/6/09

In the morning the university put on an introduction to computer science projects, which was just about useless as the lecturer leading it essentially read the information he had put online a few weeks previously. More helpfully, he also arranged a free lunch afterwards to chat about the projects with the staff who were proposing them. I talked to a few people who had proposed projects I was interested in, and based on that I chose to do a project focused on family tree software, and enabling it to do more than it currently can. I popped briefly into RUCUS before meeting with Geraldine for our weekly confab, and in the evening small group was held outside, this time rather more warmly than the previous occasion!

Tuesday 2/6/09

Having slept in rather tooo long, I confirmed how unfit I am by attempting to jog onto campuslate for my meeting with two people I know from CU. Afterwards I chatted to Mark Laynesmith for a while, then headed with him to the RUSU faith forum. The meeting was fairly dull, and didn’t affect RUCU on the whole, but there were a few bits that did. I didn’t contribute, but Peter did a fine job of representing the work of RUCU. In the evening I made my usual trip to the house of a family at church who kindly put up with the students before the Bible study and prayer meeting each week. Somehow I managed to leave my Bible study preparation for the next day’s committee meeting rather late, so it was abuot 4:30am before I got to bed! Definitely not a habit to be cultivated!

Wednesday 3/6/09

Naturally, given my late night, I managed to pitch up to the committee meeting somewhat later than would have been desirable. Once it was over I registered my selection of project choices (I had to choose three in case my first choice was too popular) then went to meet Andrew Waugh. After a very productive conversation with him, during which he was both gracious and instructive, I went to Idol Chatter, a seminar being run by Will Eley about identifying idols in our lives. During the evening I spent my time reading before watching The Apprentice and You’re Fired with Andy, and managed to get to bed at a reasonable hour of the day.

Thursday 4/4/09

Thursday was the most frustrating day I have had for quite a while. I needed to print the RUCU constitutional changes which the committee is proposing to hand them out at the CU main meeting in the evening, I needed to go shopping for food before cooking dinner, and I needed to vote in the European elections. I decided to combine the three in a round trip I expected to take a little over an hour, but by the time I returned home significantly more time had somehow elapsed. I don’t know where the day went, and I have no recollection of time wasting, but neither do I recall what else I did before the CU main meeting! The speaker there was Simon Pethick, and he gave a very good talk full of application about not judging others and avoiding cliques, both useful lessons in a CU.

Friday 5/6/09

Much to my disgust by the time I got home from prayer breakfast my watch was informing me it was 10:20. Considering this is an 8-9am prayer meeting I wasn’t pleased! I had expected to stay longer than 9, but it still mucked up my timings for the day. After I had my quiet time it was already time to meet Josh, a meeting which also took much longer than expected, lasting as it did abuot 2½ hours. There wasn’t much time for me to spend at home before I was on campus again, meeting Josh and a few people from the Bulmershe small group to discuss how we can integrate the Bulmershe campus into our mission more. The evening consisted of nothing more lively than washing up and reading, but I was encouraged by a lot of the blog posts I read. I also got round to writing a blerb about RUCU and my testimony for a leaflet being given out at the Bridges hall event on Monday.

Saturday 6/6/09

Shockingly, I was up at about 9:30am, primarily because there was a joint church fellowship outing planned for today. It was sadly cancelled due to the rain, but I made good use of the time anyway by finally clearing my inbox (including one email from April!) and reading all the blog posts I hadn’t read over the last few weeks but wanted to. As I have slept since then, I am now incapable of remembering what else happened that day, but I do seem to remember the evening was much less productive than I hoped and involved watching iPlayer, or a film, or something along those lines.

My congratulations to those of you dedicated enough to read this entire blog post. Now get back to something useful!