Month: September 2009

Perhaps the Lord… He just did!

One month ago, to the day, I had a tedious job to do at work which required very little thought. I wanted to make good use of the time, so I listened to a talk by Richard Cunningham which I found through Bish’s blog. At the time I thought it was a good talk, and made a note to blog about it, but I never got round to writing that post. Yesterday I read the same passage in my quiet time. The passage is the first half of 1 Samuel 14 and in it Jonathan, the son of King Saul, attacks an army with only one ally and one weapon between them. They have faith in God, and decide to take a massive risk, aware that God is able to use even the smallest and weakest things to bring salvation, and they say “Perhaps the LORD will act” (NIV).

I was aware as I read the passage that there was an event put on by the CU small group at Bridges hall in the evening, aimed at international students, but it had been arranged within two days. I wasn’t hopeful of it being very good. The gospel content was supposed to be in a talk, but I didn’t think the event lent itself to having a talk. We couldn’t get any follow up forms for people to fill in. Only four Christians could be there. There was next to no advertising. It was shaping up to be an all time low in the history of CU small group events.

We went ahead, of course, hoping God would do something useful. It didn’t go too well. We had two people come and chat to us awkwardly, which was nice, but not brilliant. One left to go to her room when she was getting cold. We’d been there for quite a long time. Certainly it was over an hour, and our two contacts were polite enough and friendly enough, but neither seemed overly interested. Then two more people came. I’d been hoping to get away and go to bed by this point, but I had to stay and chat. Again it was awkward, with no natural conversationalists at the event and a language barrier to overcome. It was getting really late when another international student walked into the room and joined us.

We were all getting tired and it was time for us to go. We started packing away, and said goodbye to our contacts. Just the last student remained. I turned away from packing up food, and saw he was chatting to a group of Christians, including two from other small groups who had come to be supportive (thank you both!). I chatted to a guy who was on the Bridges JCR committee, but the conversation never really got onto spiritual matters. I played a game of pool with a friend. Still the conversation was ongoing. I thought it was reasonable for me to intrude so I stood in the circle and listened. The conversation was about spiritual matters, but not the gospel itself. It didn’t seem to be getting any closer to the gospel either. Eventually I asked the student about the reason behind his own moral beliefs. He thought it was good to do good things, but not because we want to get into heaven.

Brilliant!

What an opportunity to explain we’re not doing good things to get into heaven, but because we’re loved by God and already booked into heaven! That conversation lasted a long time, finishing at 1am, and having survived moving to a different room and numerous interruptions from uninterested parties. The JCR member I’d previously spoken to listened silently the whole time, offering no opinions but hearing the gospel explained in no uncertain times.

I got home at 1:40am, thankful to God for showing me once again that His strength is made perfect in weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9). In no way could it be claimed that the small group members were responsible for a very successful event. The gospel was heard by at least half a dozen people. Free gospels were given away, along with invitations to further events. Several people gave us their contact details. We got permission for a further event in the hall, after some confusion over email resulting in us being denied permission. Greatest of all, of course, we got to share the gospel as clearly as it could be shared.

I had prayed beforehand that every Christian would get to explain the gospel to someone, so we could grow in our confidence and desire to evangelise. I hadn’t expected all of us to explain it to the same person, but we did, and even the most shy among us contributed. Let us be thankful to God as we end the work of telling the gospel (for one day), and begin the work of praying for the people we met. I certainly hope to meet them again and carry on the discussion.

In other news, we can be grateful for 29 freshers who have contacted RUCU in one way or another before freshers’ week even begins!

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The immortal Sir Michael Caine

In today’s Metro newspaper there is a brief interview with Sir Michael Caine, who is currently promoting his latest film, ‘Is Anybody There?’. I’ve not seen the film, but what really grabbed my attention was Michael’s answer to the interviewer’s pertinent question about death.

Do sombre films about dying make you think about your own mortality?
I never think about my own mortality. No, no, you must never do that. I always have so many plans for what I’m doing. I’ve behaved my entire life as if I’m immortal.

Clearly Michael Caine doesn’t like to think about death, but it is the only certain thing in his life. Whether or not he will win an oscar for his performance is unknown. Whether or not he will be in the next batman film is unknown. That he will die is known. It saddens me that he deliberately and consciously chooses not to ponder or prepare for this eventuality.

It’s not an uncommon way of living. In day to day life, I suspect most of us behave as if we’re immortal. Death is not something we like to think about, so we simply don’t think about it. Maybe this is because people want to avoid the unpleasant. Maybe many think there is nothing we can do about death, so there is no point wasting time thinking about it. Neither are good reasons to not think about one’s own death.

We should never avoid the unpleasant simply because it is unpleasant. Many things which are beneficial to us are unpleasant. The child who refuses to eat vegetables will end up with a vitamin deficiency. The person who refuses to exercise finds themselves unable to run for a bus. While there is obviously no point in looking for unpleasantness for its own sake, avoiding it for its own sake is equally foolish.

Poor as the first reason is, the second is much worse. There is something we can do about death. But first we must consider what death is. Death is the absence of life. No surprises there. But what is life? Jesus said life was more than having a heartbeat, more than filling and emptying our lungs with a multiplicity of gases. He taught that life is knowing God. If He was right, then death is not knowing God, and its nature changes radically. It doesn’t take a genius to see that we don’t inherently know what God is like, let alone know Him personally (just look at the many and varied gods people have worshipped over the years). Rather than knowing we will die, we find out we are already dead! But Jesus said more than that. He said He could give people eternal life – an eternity of knowing God. Indeed, this is the very reason Jesus was born and died, and the means by which we are enabled to know God’s love.

You can read the full interview online. ‘Is Anybody There?’ can be bought cheaply online.

G K Chesterton quotes

I’ve come across G K Chesterton as someone who made various pithy comments, but someone has been kind enough to compile a list of good ones. A few which made me think:

Christianity has not been tried and found wanting; it has been found difficult and not tried.

We make our friends; we make our enemies; but God makes our next door neighbour.

The only good argument against Christianity is Christians.

The Bible tells us to love our neighbours, and also to love our enemies; probably because generally they are the same people.

And one which made me laugh:

The poets have been mysteriously silent on the subject of cheese.

Further reading for the really dedicated: http://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/G._K._Chesterton