Thursday Evenings

“You should not stay away from the church meetings, as some are doing, but you should meet together and encourage each other.” – Hebrews 10:25

One of my favourite days of the week at the moment is Thursday.

Why?

Well, I’ll work backwards. The late evening is usually filled with great discussion and quite a lot of fun! It’s after CU, so people are a little tired. Not so tired that they’re ready to go to bed, mind. But tired enough that they start to do hilarious things. Like trying to force-feed people ham. That was an interesting night (and a story for another time).

CU is great. When I started university, I told myself that I’d just go to the smaller college groups – I wasn’t convinced about the main CU where all the colleges came together. But now, I love it. It’s a great way of socialising, learning, and worshipping God. And yes, one of my worries was the music, that I knew would be mostly modern worship songs I wouldn’t know. And yes, that is quite often true. But that’s only a small part of CU – and I do know some of the ones we do.

I’m far more comfortable when I know the songs – I feel that I am better able to focus on worshipping God through music when I know roughly what I’m doing, rather than worrying about the tune, or the structure.

Before CU I go to Christian Persuaders. This is a group that meets up to essentially learn good techniques for evangelism. This includes evangelistic talks, discussions, answering common but difficult questions, whilst trying to make the Gospel accessible – we have recently been trying to explain ‘Christianese’ words in simpler, clearer language. It’s really useful practice for things like Text-a-Toastie, with a little preparation for answering the kinds of big questions we might get.

Christian Persuaders is also great because there’s food.

But of course, that’s not the focus 😉

Before Christian Persuaders, there is an hour set aside. This time is used for individual Bible study, quiet prayer. And it’s time that I really value.

It means that I have a specific time where nothing else is going on. I can focus. I’m in a room with others who are doing the same thing. I say the same thing, but they might be focussing on a different part of the Bible, or going through a different study. It means I can just sit and read, without distraction, but with the encouragement of having other people also reading the Bible.

I’m reading a book on quiet times at the moment, which is useful in terms of encouraging me to find time to spend with God. It talks about how important it is to find a time and a space to worship, pray, and read the Bible in solitude. It talks about being alone. Whilst that’s useful, I find it incredibly helpful just being with others. I may not be alone, but I can still find a quiet place to study the Word of God.

I look forward immensely to Thursday evenings. Particularly the 5pm Bible time. It means I have a time set aside for God. Yes, I should be doing this more often. But it is a start. It means I can enjoy time with God without worrying about what I should be doing instead. And ultimately the more time I can spend with God, the better.

Expectations vs Reality

God, I will thank you forever for what you have done.
With those who worship you, I will trust you because you are good.” – Psalm 52:9

We’re into week 6 of Summer Term. That’s pretty scary – it’s almost the end of First Year. Hard to believe that back in September I was a nervous fresher, coming into a house of 20 people. That’s no joke, by the way. It doesn’t mean a house with 2 or 3 different ‘flats’ within it. It’s a house, with 20 bedrooms. But that’s beside the point. There were 19 other people living with me. Whilst it was in my first preference college, it was far from my ‘ideal’ house. At least, that’s what I thought when I first arrived. It would be noisy, it would be messy, it would be intimidating.

And to be fair, it is noisy. In fact, it’s a little bit unnerving if it falls quiet, actually. There’ll always be someone going through the squeaky kitchen door, always someone chatting. It does fall quiet at night, though. The others are generally very respectful of everyone’s need to sleep, and when they have had house parties, they’ve let us know.

It is quite messy, although I’d be the first to admit that quite a lot of the mess is probably mine. In the small kitchen, at least. But it’s not too messy. I’ve been in far messier houses, and people are generally pretty good at the Monday night clear-up in time for the Tuesday morning cleaning day.

The one thing it certainly isn’t is intimidating. I suppose it helped that I was in contact with others via Facebook for a good month and a half beforehand. It meant I knew what they were doing, for the most part what they looked like, and it did make moving in a lot easier.

Before arriving at uni, I would definitely have preferred a smaller house.

But now, I wouldn’t change anything.

In the first few weeks in the house, I was in the big kitchen getting ready for Church choir, and something came up which led to someone in the house asking if God really answered prayers. And I thought a minute, back to everything that had happened in those few weeks. And I said yes.

God had put me in a fantastic position at the beginning of my uni life. Within that situation, I found a fellow Christian, who also happened to be a coursemate, who also happened to be living in the room next door to me, who I’ve made fantastic friends with and will be living with me next year. Within that situation, I’ve made a group of firm friends, and I’ve settled in really well, despite initial expectations.

And in the year after arriving?

Well, I’ll be sad to leave. I’ve made so many great friends in this house. One of them seems to be very interested in Christianity; I’m getting her a bilingual Bible so she can read it in her own language, at her own pace. She’s been along to a few events, and I’m fairly sure she understands why we’re Christians, even if she’s not quite a Christian herself. But I’ll continue praying for her.

It will certainly be weird next year with only five of us.

But I still have 3½ weeks left of term, and another couple until I actually move out, so there’s still time. I don’t have to say goodbye just yet!

Time with God

But I am always with you;
you have held my hand” – Psalm 73:23

I’ve been feeling a bit down recently. It’s probably mostly to do with the fact that it’s the middle of exams, the one I’m not looking forward to is on Monday, it’s also the middle of term, and whilst it’s been summery for one or two days, it doesn’t really feel like it’s here to stay.

I find it’s worse when I’m alone. Whilst I am very definitely an introvert, I find solace in other people’s company. That’s why I’m meeting with one of my prayer partners today – to spend some quality time together, to chat over a coffee, and to pray.

I often forget to pray. I often forget that God is always there, ready to listen to whatever I have to say. Whilst I find a lot of solace in other people’s company, I often forget that I am in the company of God, who is so much greater than any of my friends. God is always there, He is always listening. Even in those dark hours of 3 o’clock in the morning.

God asks us several times in the Bible to “pray continually”. It’s often far too easy to just get caught up in everything I’m doing – be that work, rest, socialising or whatever else I may be doing. I’m certainly not praying.

Whilst meeting up with others is great, and certainly something worthwhile, I will try to enjoy some ‘alone time’ with God a little more – with my Bible, and in prayer. It will help me get to know God a little more, and it will certainly help me when I’m feeling down, or lonely. God’s steadfast love is so reassuring when life just gets a little rubbish, and it’s something to rejoice in when it invariably gets better.

Welcome: Forum NE+

Christ accepted you, so you should accept each other, which will bring glory to God.” – Romans 15:7

Today I was at Forum NE+ in Leeds. I’d never been to one of these events before (mostly as I was only a part of a college group in CU and never really went to any of the main meetings, and as such didn’t really feel the need). However, since I’ve got more involved in the main meetings and other CU-related happenings I’ve felt like I should be a little more proactive in what I do. I don’t want to simply be. I want to share God’s love around campus and CU helps me to do that.

The theme of the day was welcome. How God welcomes us, and how we can welcome freshers in the Autumn. Then I participated in a workshop on hospitality, where we looked at how we can show hospitality and effectively communicate the Gospel.

Welcome is incredibly important. When I first came to university, I knew what church I wanted to go to. Having said that, it was important that I felt welcomed and part of the community; I did not want to simply be an outsider. If that didn’t happen, I would have moved on. But despite being a small church, it was a welcoming church. People were friendly, and people talked to me. Whilst the service was a little more formal than I was used to, I did not feel like an outsider. And a few weeks later I very definitely belonged.

I would love for next year’s freshers to have the same experience. I would love for them to feel a sense of belonging, a sense of love, and a welcome that not only invites them into a church (or indeed the CU) but convinces them to stay. Christ welcomed us, and as such we should welcome others. In our case, this particularly means the many freshers arriving at our college and university in September.

Hospitality plays an important part in welcome. If we simply spread the Gospel without hospitality, much of the message is lost and we are not seen as kind, loving and welcoming people. Instead we would probably be seen as Bible-verse-memorising lunatics. A major challenge to me will be my openness; I am usually pretty shy! However, I have been given the opportunity to be a Day STYC for my college; this means I’ll have to get out and talk to people. And that gives me a great opportunity to spread and demonstrate the Gospel. After all, we are told in Thessalonians to share not only the Gospel, but our lives.

Through demonstrating this hospitality and showing our care and love for the freshers right at the beginning of their time at university, they will hopefully come to see everything that the CU stands for – not only in a theoretical way but also in a practical way. I hope that they feel welcomed, that they belong, and that they are all loved by both us and Christ.

Thoughts on sin and forgiveness

In the same way, I tell you there is more joy in heaven over one sinner who changes his heart and life, than over ninety-nine good people who don’t need to change.”Luke 15:7

My previous post was about my then upcoming French speaking exam. Fortunately, that’s now been and gone.

The structure of the exam was simple. We watched a video, came up with a 3-4 minute presentation about one of the themes in the video, and then had 6-7 minutes of questions about our presentation, the video and general questions. So the first thing I had to do was to figure out a theme.

The video was an interview with a French Catholic priest about his work and his latest book. Part of his work involved juvenile delinquents, and a topic he mentioned in his book was paedophilia within the Catholic Church. This gave me a perfect opportunity to talk about something I know about: sin and forgiveness.

It often seems, whenever someone is badly wronged, that the victim wants justice. This is all well and good; justice is a concept based on moral right and we should attempt to uphold it. But all too often, what people mean by ‘justice’ seems to be a lengthy prison sentence, for the perpetrator of the crime to be incarcerated and never have a chance of reconciliation.

Unfortunately, this looks to go against what the Bible tells us about sin and forgiveness. In Romans 12:19, it says My friends, do not try to punish others when they wrong you, but wait for God to punish them with his anger.”. This tells us pretty explicitly that it’s not our right to punish people – it’s God’s role, God whose anger is infinitely more powerful than our own.

So what do we do instead of punishing people?

Matthew 6:14-15 gives us the answer: we should forgive.

We should forgive others, and we can receive forgiveness ourselves. We have to be careful what we mean by forgiveness. It does not mean that the crime/immorality is OK. We are not just wiping all traces of it from the face of the earth. Instead, the sinner, in asking for forgiveness, must repent. We can then rebuild a relationship with them, and effectively allow them a fresh start. Remember that almost anything (with the exception of one – blasphemy against the Holy Spirit, mentioned in Matthew 12:32 and Mark 3:29, but that’s a story for another time) can be forgiven. So what does this mean for us? It means we can forgive almost anything.

Romans 3:23 is pretty clear about sin. Everyone has sinned and fallen short of God’s glorious standard”. Does this not make our perceived notion of ‘justice’ just a little bit hypocritical? If we seek and indeed demand justice for others, we should surely be doing so for ourselves as well.

God’s anger is immense, but so is His love for us. This is why Jesus died for us – so that we could receive forgiveness and restore our relationship with God. It was explained to me once like this: our relationship with God is like holding His hand. Any sort of sin separates us from God, and as such we are no longer holding His hand. It doesn’t matter if it’s a ‘small’ sin, or if it’s a ‘larger’ one – we are still separated from God and so still need to rebuild that relationship, and go back to holding God’s hand. And God’s hand is always reaching out towards us, we just need to turn back to God, ask for forgiveness, and we can hold it again.